GRAND PRIX INTERNATIONAL, 01.07.1981
I didn't arrive at Jarama in the best of health. My neck hurt quite a lot following an accident I had had at Dijon the week before the Spanish Grand Prix while I was testing. A wheel came off and the car was destroyed, also to the detriment of a vertebra in my neck.
That's not the only headache I get these days. I get one each time I think of the Spanish Grand Prix. I have to go back over that race, if only to jot down these few lines.
The reason I get a headache is because I get very frustrated when I think about that race.
I should have won, that's why. I'm absolutely certain that I could have won that race. Maybe Alan Jones and Jacques Laffite have reason to say the same thing. Alan had pulled out quite a lead when he made his mistake. Jacques certainly had the car with which to win, but he had to get the jump on Gilles at the start to do so!
For those two as for me - and I'm talking mainly about me - it was one of those races which we lost. It's rather as it was at Monaco, there are a number of people who say that they could have won. Yet on both occasions, it's been the same driver who has won: Gilles Villeneuve, and each time people have said that he's been lucky. But he has more than a little to do with his own luck. While I'm talking about Gilles, his win in Spain was of some use to us. It may have been detrimental to Jones and Reutemann, but it does mean that our chances in the championship aren't entirely hopeless.
I should have won the Spanish Grand Prix, as I've said, because I was one of the few drivers capable of worrying Villeneuve. It wasn't just by chance that all those cars were bunched up behind him at the end. His lap times weren't that good, but no one could pass him. There's only one real passing place at Jarama, and that's at the end of the straight. But thanks to his turbo engine, he was always a few yards in front of his pursuers when he reached the first corner. I can just imagine how furious Reutemann and Jacques must have been, held up by the Ferrari around the twisty bits, only for it to take off like a rocket down the straight.
But it wouldn't have pulls away from me, because I, too, was driving a turbocar. I would have been able to keep up with it down the straight and would have been able to mount an attack on the Ferrari. It could have been decisive.
I certainly had the right car for the job. I was in third place three seconds behind Gilles when I retired. And that was with a front wing bent at the very first corner. But I'm used to that. I've only had two trouble-free first laps this season: in Brazil and Argentina. I'm a bit fed up with things happening in batches. I've had a batch of first lap problems, and now we seem to be going through batch of wins by turbocars. Unfortunately, they're red turbocars and not yellow and black.
Even though the front wing was bent, I still managed to be competitive. And if I'd had some downforce from my front wing, allowing the front tyres to grip properly, I would surely have been even quicker.
I knew that I was in with a chance. During Sunday morning's warm-up, my RE30 was fantastic. We'd spent the weekend setting up the car as well as we could - you'll have to excuse me if I don't give you the exact details - and I was pleased with the car. I'd say that the car was pretty good. In fact I was very pleased, it was going really well. In a single lap, I set the third fastest time of the final practice session, only a tenth slower than Jacques Laffite. I was sure that he would be no problem in the race.
Last year I found myself up against Jacques in Canada. I overtook him during the race which was one of my best. The reaction of some of the more snobbish of the French journalists was really incredible. They were very shocked. One wrote, in his flowery style, that I was "in the process of assassinating my father!" You'll have to allow for a certain amount of French imagery in your interpretation.
Well, in Jarama, using the same imagery, I was ready to assassinate my father. As things turned out, Jacques didn't need my help in losing virtually all the advantage gained from his pole position. As it happened, it was that bent front wing which caught me out. Without it, the front didn't have as much grip as usual, and I locked up the brakes and slid off into my sand which is where my Renault remained. I'm sorry that I was unable to stir up the end of the race just that little bit more. But usually from things bad comes a little good. I can assure you that at Dijon, the first five cars won't be covered by just over a second as they were in Spain. Because I'm going to be a minute ahead of all of them. I just have to keep telling myself this, because if I do so often enough, it just might turn out to be true…