The 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix was the second round of the 1981 Formula One Season. The race gained notoriety as being the catalyst of the breakdown in communications between race winner Carlos Reutemann and Williams teammate Alan Jones. Reutemann had disobeyed team orders to let Jones through to take the race win, Jones enraged at the result failed to attend the podium ceremony after the race.
The 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix was notably the second race to be hosted at the Jacarepagua Circuit, the first since the 1978 Brazilian Grand Prix. The event had been traditionally held at the Interlagos Circuit, however inadequate barriers, the bumpy circuit and its deep ditches and trenches off track had meant the circuit had become outdated and unsuitable for the modern safety standards of Formula One.
Jean-Pierre Jabouille had notably attempted to return to his seat at the Ligier team following his leg injuries sustained at the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix and was attending the circuit, however his temporary replacement Jean-Pierre Jarier remained at the circuit as reserve in case Jabouille remained unfit to drive. Kevin Cogan had also been replaced at the Tyrrell team following a disappointing performance at Long Beach, being replaced with Argentine Ricardo Zunino who inherited the seat for the South American races in Brazil and his home race in Argentina. Ricardo Londoñor, a Colombian racer was set to become the first Colombian to enter a Formula One race when he bought his way into the Ensign seat for the race, replacing regular driver Marc Surer in the team.
1980 world champion Alan Jones had won the previous race at Long Beach and remained leader in the world championship. His teammate Carlos Reutemann was second in the standings, Williams affirming their continued competitiveness. The Brabham team however were the ones to watch in Brazil, their lead driver Nelson Piquet was competing in his home town at Jacarepagua in the city of Rio de Janeiro. There were also rumours around the paddock that the Brabham team had a new suspension that lowered the car onto the track whilst moving, creating the notorious ground effect that had attempted to be removed from Formula One with the banning of skirts. The Brabham car had circumvented the rules by remaining within the 6cm clearance from the ground whilst stationary, however the suspension lowered the car whilst moving to produce the ground effect.
Lotus had introduced its new Lotus 88 for the Brazilian event, the chassis however was barred from entering on the grounds of it being considered illegal. The car used a twin chassis system in order to assist the production of the ground effect following the banning of skirts. The team reverted back to the Lotus 81B chassis.
The full entry list for the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix is displayed below:
As the Jacarepagua circuit was a relative unknown to the Formula One fraternity, having only been raced once before three years earlier in 1978, the FIA had approved an extra practice session to take place at the circuit.
During the practice sessions, the Colombian debutant for Ensign, Ricardo Londoñor was deemed unfit for Formula One and the FISA failed to grant him a superlicense for the race. With Londoñor being barred entry, Marc Surer retained his seat and would compete for the team for the remainder of the weekend. Jean-Pierre Jabouille continued to experience leg pains throughout the session and continued to feel unfit to drive his Ligier. The team then replaced him with their reserve driver Jean-Pierre Jarier for the remainder of the weekend.
The updated Brabham BT49 driven by home talent Nelson Piquet was unbelievably quick during the qualifying sessions. The Williams cars of Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones lined up directly behind the Brabham of Piquet. Riccardo Patrese had put in another impressive performance to put his Arrows in fourth whilst Alain Prost in the Renault was fifth.
|2||2||Carlos Reutemann||Williams-Ford||1:35.390||+ 0.311|
|3||1||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford||1:36.337||+ 1.258|
|4||29||Riccardo Patrese||Arrows-Ford||1:36.667||+ 1.588|
|5||15||Alain Prost||Renault||1:36.670||+ 1.591|
|6||23||Bruno Giacomelli||Alfa Romeo||1:37.283||+ 2.204|
|7||27||Gilles Villeneuve||Ferrari||1:37.497||+ 2.418|
|8||16||René Arnoux||Renault||1:37.561||+ 2.482|
|9||22||Mario Andretti||Alfa Romeo||1:37.597||+ 2.518|
|10||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Ford||1:37.734||+ 2.655|
|11||6||Héctor Rebaque||Brabham-Ford||1:37.777||+ 2.698|
|12||20||Keke Rosberg||Fittipaldi-Ford||1:37.981||+ 2.902|
|13||12||Nigel Mansell||Lotus-Ford||1:38.003||+ 2.940|
|14||3||Eddie Cheever||Tyrrell-Ford||1:38.160||+ 3.081|
|15||7||John Watson||McLaren-Ford||1:38.263||+ 3.184|
|16||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Matra||1:38.273||+ 3.194|
|17||28||Didier Pironi||Ferrari||1:38.565||+ 3.486|
|18||14||Marc Surer||Ensign-Ford||1:38.570||+ 3.491|
|19||33||Patrick Tambay||Theodore-Ford||1:38.726||+ 3.647|
|20||8||Andrea de Cesaris||McLaren-Ford||1:38.780||+ 3.701|
|21||30||Siegfried Stohr||Arrows-Ford||1:39.190||+ 4.111|
|22||21||Chico Serra||Fittipaldi-Ford||1:39.326||+ 4.247|
|23||25||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Ligier-Matra||1:39.398||+ 4.319|
|24||4||Ricardo Zunino||Tyrrell-Ford||1:39.798||+ 4.719|
|DNQ||9||Jan Lammers||ATS-Ford||1:39.844||+ 4.765|
|DNQ||32||Beppe Gabbiani||Osella-Ford||1:40.709||+ 5.630|
|DNQ||31||Miguel Ángel Guerra||Osella-Ford||1:40.984||+ 5.905|
|DNQ||18||Eliseo Salazar||March-Ford||1:43.267||+ 8.188|
|DNQ||17||Derek Daly||March-Ford||No time||—|
|DNP||14||Ricardo Londoñor||Ensign-Ford||No time||—|
Prior to the race start heavy rain had afflicted the circuit, however by the start of the race the rain had abated with the skies clearing up. The track remained damp, the only three drivers to take the risk with slicks were Nelson Piquet, Didier Pironi's Ferrari and Siegfried Stohr's Arrows. Despite the wet conditions, the grandstands were packed in anticipation of a Piquet home victory.
Unfortunately for the home fans, Piquet's dry weather set-up was clearly the wrong choice and he immediately dropped to fourth as Reutemann took the lead with Patrese and Jones also moving past. Further back there was carnage in the midfield. Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari got a strong start and was on the back of Alain Prost's Renault when the Renault driver lifted in the wet conditions. Villeneuve was forced to brake heavily which forced Mario Andretti in the Alfa Romeo behind him to slam into the back of the Ferrari, launching over the top of Villeneuve. In the carnage, the other Renault of René Arnoux and the home racer, Brazilian Chico Serra were caught in the incident and retired. Eddie Cheever and Siegfried Stohr were also damaged, however both cars were able to continue. Cheever proving a difficulty having been seen stalled out on the circuit.
Before the end of the first lap, Jones had overtaken Patrese to move into second position to make it a Williams one-two with Reutemann in the lead. Piquet had further began to drop back, falling down to sixth behind Bruno Giacomelli and Elio de Angelis. Chico Serra had also spun out of the race. Villeneuve would continue around the circuit with his car's nose askew.
In the early laps, De Angelis overtook Giacomelli for fourth and a few laps later Giacomelli spun off the circuit and damaged his car. This had meant Keke Rosberg at his Fittipaldi team's home race was now up to fifth position. Piquet had meanwhile dropped back with mechanical issues.
Behind Rosberg came John Watson, Jean-Pierre Jarier, an impressive Marc Surer who had come from eighteenth on the grid for Ensign and Jacques Laffite. Watson and Jarier were soon past Rosberg who began to fall into the clutches of Surer and Laffite. In the following laps Rosberg continued to drop back as both Surer and Laffite passed him. The recovering Alain Prost who was caught in the start-line incident then overtook Rosberg however his race was brought to an end on lap 20 when the struggling Ferrari of Didier Pironi aquaplaned off the circuit on slick tyres, colliding with Prost's Renault and taking both cars out of the race.
On lap 29, Jarier went wide and off the circuit dropping behind Surer and teammate Laffite. Surer had continued to drive well and had began to pressure Watson's McLaren. As the rain began to increase, a riveting battle for fifth position would begin as Surer and the two Ligier cars pressured Watson's McLaren. On lap 35, Watson succumbed to the pressure and spun off the circuit dropping behind his four challengers. Surer continued to push on and remarkably overtook De Angelis's Lotus for fourth on lap 49.
Jarier had also managed to overtake teammate Laffite at the same time, however was quickly ordered by his team to allow the team leader in Laffite back into sixth to take the final points position. Jarier complied and allowed Laffite back into sixth place. More significant team orders took place at the front of the pack. The two Williams cars of Reutemann and Jones had been dominating the race with Patrese a distant third in his Arrows.
Despite the Hollywood sponsorship of the race, the home hero, Nelson Piquet was experiencing a dreadful race, following his start, he had fallen a number of laps behind the leaders and the only publicity of his race was where he could be seen near stalling his car and spinning as he continued on what appeared to be dry tyres.
ad near Reutemann as the number two driver in the team was contractually obliged to allow his team leader and reigning world champion, Alan Jones through and to take the lead. Throughout the race Jones had patiently remained on the heel of Reutemann's tail waiting for his number two driver to submit his lead to him. The pit board clearly indicated "JONES-REUT" which had indicated to Reutemann that he was expected to allow Jones through into the lead. However throughout the race, Reutemann failed to submit to team orders. Reutemann finished the race taking the race win against his team's wishes, Jones coming an infuriated second.
Jones feeling infuriated by the betrayal of his teammate failed to attend the podium ceremony whilst a conflicted Reutemann stood in the podium, in no mood for celebration as Patrese became the only one to spray the champagne.
Jones failed to attend the podium ceremony, whilst Reutemann ironically in deference to his Williams team's Saudi sponsors refused to participate in the champagne spraying, leaving Patrese the only driver to raise the bottle.
Following the result in Brazil, Jones had lost all trust in his teammate stating "I now know I have to go out and beat Carlos as well" with the realisation he would no longer get any help from his teammate in the championship. Reutemann justified his actions in disobeying team orders by stating “Jones had reason to be upset, I can’t disagree with that. I saw the pit signal three laps from the end, and I knew the terms of the contract. But still I was in a dilemma. From the beginning of my career, I always started every race with the intention of winning it – but now I was being asked to give it away, just like that. ‘If I give way,’ I thought to myself, ‘I stop the car here and now, in the middle of the track, and leave immediately for my farm in Argentina. Finish. Not a racing driver any more.”
The Williams team whilst angry at Reutemann for disobeying team orders, fined Reutemann for breaking his contract. However the team would thereafter treat Jones and Reutemann more as equals in the championship fight. Team principal Frank Williams later stating many years later on the event “Well, it stirred up a lot of controversy at the time, but, quite honestly, I just found the whole thing very boring. As long as the team gets the points, I don’t care who scores them. Why should I care which bloody driver wins? They’re only employees after all.”
Jones would simply comment in later years, "From that moment on, I just knew I couldn't trust Carlos because the contract may as well... you know, not exist, why sign it"
Standings after race
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|V T E||Brazilian Grand Prix / São Paulo Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Interlagos (1972–1977, 1979–1980, 1990–present), Jacarepaguá (1978, 1981–1989)|
|Races (Brazilian GP)||1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981 • 1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • |
|Races (São Paulo GP)||2021 • 2022|