So close to victory

Translated by this website

Last year it was a real effort for him to qualify. This year he aims at the front rows when he’s driving in practice. The least one can say is that he’s made the right choice by swooping from Shadow to Lotus 81. Now his talent, apparent on occasions last year, is matched with the right equipment. His father had to help him buy his way out of the Shadow team so that he could join Lotus, but that scarcely has anything to do with his driving capabilities. He’s still an attacking driver. At Interlagos, Elio was as good as Pironi and Villeneuve in the fast curves, those that separate the men from the boys.

The evening before the race, De Angelis spoke optimistically but in his usual measured tone of his hopes for the race, having qualified seventh in practice. But if his situation had changed, he clearly hadn’t. He was still thoughtful, ponderous, almost cold. “My car is fantastic, its roadholding is excellent and it’s easy to drive”. He hadn’t been so happy the previous evening after the first qualifying session. “We suspected the skirts of not working properly, but the mechanics discovered that by the end the shock absorbers on the left-hand side were no longer working. The bumpy circuit had worn them out”.

The next day though, everything was back in order, to such a point that Elio reckoned he’d narrowly missed a spot on the second row.

“I was held up on my best lap by Rosberg and Zunino. Once I’d overtaken them, I’d lost the half second which would have given me third quickest time”.

But that wasn’t dampering his enthusiasm nor pleasure. “Tomorrow is going to be my big day” he foretold.

“My car is really good”. And the next day was a great day for him because he finished second. But it didn’t all go well. At the end of the warm-up, he looked rather worried. “My engine isn’t running properly. I can’t get maximum revs. And we won’t have time to change the engine for the race”. Fortunately, his mechanics found that it was due to a small electrical breakage which restored the Italian’s peace of mind just before the race.

De Angelis was the only non-Renault or Ligier driver to run near the front. At the start, he sat three seconds behind Arnoux and watched. Then Arnoux slowly began to draw away and the gap widened to 5” at half-distance. At the time Elio was in third place, for the two Ligiers had dropped out. He picked up another position when Jabouille retired on the 25th lap. Elio was at that stage 8”3 behind the new leader, René Arnoux, and he tried to lessen the gap. However, at that moment, his tyres started to go off. “I caught up Arnoux a little between the 20th and 25th laps, but when Jabouille retired, the car began to lose grip at the front”.

The Renault’s lead grew to 20 seconds, and De Angelis abandoned the idea of trying to catch him. “My tyres had gone off, so I eased up for a couple of laps in order to cool them. Then I tried to attack again but failed to pick up any time. My tyres were too far gone. So I eased up fractionally in order not to jeopardise a good result. I was happy to maintain my lead over Jones who was third behind me”.

So René Arnoux crossed the line in the lead, but promptly ran out petrol on his slowing down lap. His victory was judged to the last drop, it could easily have been De Angelis. “If my tyres hadn’t gone off, I would have been able to press Arnoux harder, and he wouldn’t have been able to ease up”. In other words, René would have used more petrol, and he would have run out of petrol earlier.

“But anyway, I’m not sorry about the way it has turned out”, added De Angelis “I’m very satisfied with the result. The Lotus team is fantastic. I’m quite simply very happy”.

His tyres weren’t the only factors to blame. His skirts were almost half used by.

The end, which also explains why he lost ground. A win. Next time, perhaps.

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