GRAND PRIX INTERNATIONAL, 15.07.1981
Thanks to me telling you that I was going to win, I did exactly that at Dijon, so there we are, mission accomplished. Now that proves that it's not impossible. It's amazing, isn't it, two little words: I won. I must admit that it's been quite hard for me to realise and evaluate just what that means. It's obviously a marvellous feeling, although I can't tell you just how good it feels just yet. I think that I'm going to become happier every time I think of it, and more conscious of having won as the days pass. It's two days after race, and I'm writing this article just before going to Germany for testing. And I'm still in shock! I'm a little heavy headed and carried away.
Don't imagine for a moment that this heavy headedness is caused by the winner's champagne. I took a couple of gulps on the rostrum for tradition's sake, but not a lot since then. I prefer mineral water. No, if I'm drunk, it's drunk with meetings, interviews, congratulations, taps on the shoulder, big kisses, hand-shakes, that sort of thing. The TV, radio and press interviews that a winner has to go through are quite amazing. I'd never imagined it would be like that. It's incredible how congratulations are heaped onto a Grand Prix winner. But I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. I'd much prefer to go through that than sit in the corner on my own because I hadn't qualified or something.
When the fuss begins to die down, this punch-drunk feeling of everyone rushing around me will wear off. Then I will realise that I won the French Grand Prix, and I'll be able to appreciate just what that means, the full importance of the event.
But there's one thing that I've already realised is important. In English, the expression might be "broken my duck''. There's a rather ruder French equivalent, but it basically means that I've broken a barrier, and succeeded for the first time. It was something that I felt immediately after the race, and I've mentioned it to a number of people. I feel that I've overcome a psychological barrier. I've won my first Grand Prix, and to do so, early in one's Formula 1 career, is a tremendous boost in that it instils so much self-confidence.
It's good to win, but what is equally important - and it seems crazy to say so - is that I now know that I can win another day. Beforehand, I would weigh up the pros and cons, tell myself that I had all the right equipment and the right attitude, but having never climbed the step to the highest level of the rostrum, I was only able to say that I could win. Now I know that I can win. It used to be supposition. Now it's a certainty.
That means quite a lot. I didn't lack self-confidence, I can assure you. But now I know that when I'm eighth or tenth of the grid, I have the potential and ability to win Grand Prix. I'm not going to go through the race in detail, I'm sure that's chronicled elsewhere in these pages. But I'd like to point out a number of firsts to you. It was the first time I'd driven a French car in the French Grand Prix; the first time that I'd raced a Formula 1 car at Dijon; and the first time I'd felt so much under pressure and so nervous, because this race was really important to us. In spite of all these firsts, I'm pleased with the way I reacted psychologically, because I won.
So now I feel that my career has advanced a stage further. I feel that I've accomplished something different, and I feel relieved that there's no longer the nagging doubt as to whether I could win.
I've only spoken about me winning, what egotism! Of course, the whole team won, and the personnel have now regained their self-confidence. We had a good meal together in Dijon on the Sunday night. It wasn't a wild, rip-roaring affair because I think we were all rather tired, but it was just a pleasant, quiet evening.
You may not know this, but my wife is expecting a child, and various wags have suggested that it might be called Victoria, but as it's going to be a boy, I don't think we'll bother with that name... I felt rather guilty that it was rather a long time after the race before I could phone my wife at Saint-Chamond. You know, in her condition, I shouldn't really excite her by winning races and that sort of thing. She's meant to remain calm and quiet, so it wasn't very thoughtful of me as a family man to win the French Grand Prix! I'll have to remember that at Silverstone. Roll on September when I can win without upsetting her!