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scheckter villeneuve ferrari

Red Mist: Are the 1980 bells of agony ringing for Ferrari?

scheckter villeneuve ferrari

The very year after an epic Formula 1 season as Scheckter edged Villeneuve to the 1979 title, the exact same Ferrari team endured our Scuderia’s worst-ever seasons.

Yes, our Ferrari is as good at losing as it is at winning!

Let’s roll the clock back to today in 1979. Gilles Villeneuve had just won the South African Grand Prix from teammate Jody Scheckter in Mauro Forghieri’s epic Ferrari 312T4 under Marco Piccinini. We were preparing to jet across the world to Long Beach, where Gilles would repeat the 1-2 over Jody.

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Scheckter struck back to win three races, Gilles won another and Ferrari swept to an emphatic championship 1-2 as dominant Constructor’s title and Jody was champion.

Piccinini, Forghieri, and the team played it safe for 1980. The T5 was just an evolution of the winning formula that saw Villeneuve close the ’79 season with a win at Watkins Glen. They built a similar car penned by the same great designer, with the same, dominant drivers at the wheel, and the same team spannering them, managed by the same guy.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything!

1980 turned out to be Ferrari’s worst F1 year in history as a proven great and dominant team struggled to its worst-ever tenth in the constructors with eight points off three-fifths and a couple of sixth places. But champion Scheckter retired at the end of that year, triggering our first of 21 years without a F1 driver’s title.

The garagisti had found the ground effect golden bullet, Ferrari T5’s flat 12 was simply too wide to make those venturi tunnels under the car wide enough at the back to work correctly, and the season was basically done before it started.

1980 was by no means alone as an annus Ferrari hornbills. Not by any means. We’ve had dark years aplenty. In fact, Ferrari never won in Formula 1’s first year in 1950. We made up and then some after that. Gonzalez famously took our first GP at Silverstone in ’51.

Ascari took two more wins that year, before dominating to double titles in ’52 and ’53. We won twice in 1954 and once in ’55 against the Mercedes, but Fangio took another title in ’56.

1957 was a dot year and we did not win, but Mike Hawthorn took the title in ’58. That was also the first year of the Constructor’s title, where we ended second. Tony Brooks won twice in 1959 and Phil Hill once in ’60. But the American swept to Ferrari’s first twin Drivers and Constructors titles in ’61.

1962 was Ferrari’s first real disaster season without a win and a lowly sixth in the Constructors. Surtees won a race in ’63 before leading Ferrari to double titles in 1963. As it went back then, Ferrari went winless to fifth in the F1 constructors’ title in ’64.

1969 was another Ferrari dot season

Ickx won a race in ’68, 1969 was a dot year and then the flat-12 years saw reasonable success. Until 1973, when Ferrari failed to win again and struggled to sixth in the Constructors championship amid management chaos. Sound familiar?

It went swimmingly from there however, under Montezemelo’s first spell with Lauda, Regazzoni, Reutemann, Villeneuve and Scheckter all winning regularly through another golden era. We won four constructors titles in those six years, ending second in the other two as Niki took two and Jody a third Drivers championship.

Then came 1980, the worst year of the lot. Ferrari won twice on F1’s 1981 turbo switch and took two Constructors titles on the trot in terrible 1982 and again in ’83. Two more second places in the Constructors titles followed. 1986 was another dot season and then there were sporadic successes through to 1990.

When the wheels fell off again. Ferrari failed to win a single grand prix for almost four years. It took 58 races after Mansell’s Spanish success for us to win again, when Berger finally mounted the top step in Germany in ‘94.

Alesi won a race in ’95 and then Montezemelo came back, rang the changes and installed Schumacher, Todt, Brawn and Byrne. Michael and Eddie were soon winning as the next Golden Era commenced, finally breaking that 16 year Constructor’s hiatus in 1999 and a 21 year Driver’s Championship dry patch with the first of brilliant double titles in 2000.

No F1 titles of any kind since 2008 makes for a bleak trophy cabinet at Maranello

Only one win followed in 2005, beaten to the title by Renault and Alonso. Kimi and Rubens brought as two more F1 constructors titles and drivers in 2007 and 2008.

Then it went relatively quiet. Ferrari has not taken any title in 14 years since 2009. We went winless for 31 races between 2013 and 2015, again for 27 races from 2015 to 2017, and yet again for 45 races between 2019 and 2022. That last hiatus on the back of the famous fuel flow cheat.

So the point is simple, there’s nothing new about Ferrari not winning. And much as there’s nothing new about Ferrari winning in Formula 1. But it seems that most people following this Netflix-driven social-media-stirred Formula 1 era have no cooking clue about all that. Yes, there’s always been hysteria around Ferrari’s lulls. And there should be.

But this misguided most recent modern reaction to just 13 Grands Prix without a Ferrari win seems just a little more far-fetched than it’s ever been.

Remember that lads, get on with it and let’s see if we can fix this bucket of bolts F1-23. If not, it’s just another tough year for Red cars. It’s not the first, it won’t be the last and in truth, it’s not a bad thing considering that it took the Superteam five years to finally take that elusive title at the beginning of the century. Forza Ferrari!