From the archives: The last Formula 1 race at Madrid’s Jarama circuit

It was the last time that the Formula 1 circus would come to Madrid’s Jarama circuit. Around 70,000 spectators were in attendance on June 21, 1981, and saw the sixth and final victory for Gilles Villeneuve. The Spanish Grand Prix was, at the time, considered to be one of the best and most exciting races on the calendar since the sport took shape in the 1950s. It was the seventh race of the season. The first part was dominated by a brilliant Alan Jones, who had a spectacular race, and managed to finish seventh despite leaving the track. The second part was all about Villeneuve, who took the checkered flag ahead of five cars that, at least in theory, were faster than his.
It was the last time that the Formula 1 circus would come to Madrid’s Jarama circuit. Around 70,000 spectators were in attendance on June 21, 1981, and saw the sixth and final victory for Gilles Villeneuve. The Spanish Grand Prix was, at the time, considered to be one of the best and most exciting races on the calendar since the sport took shape in the 1950s. It was the seventh race of the season. The first part was dominated by a brilliant Alan Jones, who had a spectacular race, and managed to finish seventh despite leaving the track. The second part was all about Villeneuve, who took the checkered flag ahead of five cars that, at least in theory, were faster than his.RAÚL CANCIO
The intense Madrid sun saw the track temperatures reach as high as 40ºC before the start, pushing the mechanics and the tires to their limits. It was the drivers who really suffered from the intense heat, however, including Nelson Piquet, pictured here under the shade of an umbrella while sitting in his Brabham BT49. The Brazilian star, who had finished first in Argentina and San Marino, would end up winning the F1 championship that year just a point ahead of Carlos Reutemann from Argentina. It would be the first of his three world titles. But at the Jarama circuit, he failed to finish – put under pressure by Alan Jones, he left the track on lap 43.
The intense Madrid sun saw the track temperatures reach as high as 40ºC before the start, pushing the mechanics and the tires to their limits. It was the drivers who really suffered from the intense heat, however, including Nelson Piquet, pictured here under the shade of an umbrella while sitting in his Brabham BT49. The Brazilian star, who had finished first in Argentina and San Marino, would end up winning the F1 championship that year just a point ahead of Carlos Reutemann from Argentina. It would be the first of his three world titles. But at the Jarama circuit, he failed to finish – put under pressure by Alan Jones, he left the track on lap 43.Bernardo Pérez
Frenchman Alain Prost, who had made his F1 debut the year before with McLaren, is pictured here in his Renault RE30. At Jarama, he qualified fifth on the grid – but he also failed to finish. On lap 28 an accident saw him retire. He was 26 years old at the time and his first win would await him at the next Grand Prix, in his home country. Over his career, “the professor,” as he was known, would take 51 wins and four world championships.
Frenchman Alain Prost, who had made his F1 debut the year before with McLaren, is pictured here in his Renault RE30. At Jarama, he qualified fifth on the grid – but he also failed to finish. On lap 28 an accident saw him retire. He was 26 years old at the time and his first win would await him at the next Grand Prix, in his home country. Over his career, “the professor,” as he was known, would take 51 wins and four world championships.Raúl Cancio
The mechanics work on the 126CK inside the Ferrari garage. Although the 560-horsepower turbocharged engine was the most powerful at the circuit, the car itself had terrible aerodynamics. Gilles Villeneuve, a virtuoso at the wheel who had been dubbed by Enzo Ferrari as the “little Canadian,” due to his small stature, arrived off the back of winning the Monaco Grand Prix. The Madrid circuit, however, was not expected to be favorable to his team’s car. Villeneuve qualified seventh on the grid, and his teammate, Didier Pironi, 13.
The mechanics work on the 126CK inside the Ferrari garage. Although the 560-horsepower turbocharged engine was the most powerful at the circuit, the car itself had terrible aerodynamics. Gilles Villeneuve, a virtuoso at the wheel who had been dubbed by Enzo Ferrari as the “little Canadian,” due to his small stature, arrived off the back of winning the Monaco Grand Prix. The Madrid circuit, however, was not expected to be favorable to his team’s car. Villeneuve qualified seventh on the grid, and his teammate, Didier Pironi, 13.Bernardo Pérez
A mechanic examines the Lotus driven by the Italian Elio de Angelis, who would finish fifth after starting 10th. Considered one of the best drivers on the grid, he had started 33 races without a single win. The Lotus team, which was born in the 1950s and had seen a golden age in the subsequent two decades, had prepared an ingenious double-chassis system for 1981 as a response to the technical regulations introduced by the sport’s governing body, the FIA. But it ended up being banned due to complaints lodged by the other constructors. The car they ended up running was not reliable and was responsible for a number of retirements.
A mechanic examines the Lotus driven by the Italian Elio de Angelis, who would finish fifth after starting 10th. Considered one of the best drivers on the grid, he had started 33 races without a single win. The Lotus team, which was born in the 1950s and had seen a golden age in the subsequent two decades, had prepared an ingenious double-chassis system for 1981 as a response to the technical regulations introduced by the sport’s governing body, the FIA. But it ended up being banned due to complaints lodged by the other constructors. The car they ended up running was not reliable and was responsible for a number of retirements.Bernardo Pérez
A sign held aloft by spectators calls for the presence of Madrileño driver Emilio de Villota at the Spanish Grand Prix. His early races were run at the recently constructed Jarama circuit in a car purchased with his savings and thanks to the help of family members and friends. At the start of the 1970s, private teams could purchase old cars and compete against the official outfits in Formula 1. In order to commit full time to racing, De Villota had left his job as the manager of a branch of Banco Ibérico. His team was the first to participate in Formula 1 with a Spanish license. In 1981, the sport’s supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, was determined to exclude the private teams from the championship and managed to achieve this with De Villota. The Spanish racer – the father of racing driver María de Villota, who died in 2013 following complications caused by a testing accident the year before – took part in free practice on the Friday, marking the last participation of a non-official group in F1 racing.
A sign held aloft by spectators calls for the presence of Madrileño driver Emilio de Villota at the Spanish Grand Prix. His early races were run at the recently constructed Jarama circuit in a car purchased with his savings and thanks to the help of family members and friends. At the start of the 1970s, private teams could purchase old cars and compete against the official outfits in Formula 1. In order to commit full time to racing, De Villota had left his job as the manager of a branch of Banco Ibérico. His team was the first to participate in Formula 1 with a Spanish license. In 1981, the sport’s supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, was determined to exclude the private teams from the championship and managed to achieve this with De Villota. The Spanish racer – the father of racing driver María de Villota, who died in 2013 following complications caused by a testing accident the year before – took part in free practice on the Friday, marking the last participation of a non-official group in F1 racing.Raúl Cancio
The expectations were soaring ahead of this race, with the 1981 season much closer than previous years thanks to the internal battle at Williams between Alan Jones, the previous world champion and second in the standings, and his teammate, Argentine Carlos Reutemann, who had the most points, as well as Nelson Piquet, who was third. The season was also marked by new rules in the sport, which banned sliding skirts on the cars and regulated a six-centimeter distance that they could run off the ground. This prompted a revolution when it came to car design. In the photo, tools from the Arrows team.
The expectations were soaring ahead of this race, with the 1981 season much closer than previous years thanks to the internal battle at Williams between Alan Jones, the previous world champion and second in the standings, and his teammate, Argentine Carlos Reutemann, who had the most points, as well as Nelson Piquet, who was third. The season was also marked by new rules in the sport, which banned sliding skirts on the cars and regulated a six-centimeter distance that they could run off the ground. This prompted a revolution when it came to car design. In the photo, tools from the Arrows team.Bernardo Pérez
The Arrows of Italian driver Siegfried Stohr is pushed back onto the track during a practice session. He would not end up competing after having problems with his car on the grid. This was his only season and he would fail to finish it. At the last two races, the Arrows team would give his seat to the brother of Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques, who would fail to classify nor start at either of the two races.
The Arrows of Italian driver Siegfried Stohr is pushed back onto the track during a practice session. He would not end up competing after having problems with his car on the grid. This was his only season and he would fail to finish it. At the last two races, the Arrows team would give his seat to the brother of Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques, who would fail to classify nor start at either of the two races.BERNARDO PÉREZ
The Real Automóvil Club de España (RACE), which owned the Jarama circuit, needed at least 85,000 spectators to cover the costs of the race, but just 70,000 turned out. The celebration of the Corpus Christi holiday weekend as well as the absence of Emilio de Villota both had an effect.
The Real Automóvil Club de España (RACE), which owned the Jarama circuit, needed at least 85,000 spectators to cover the costs of the race, but just 70,000 turned out. The celebration of the Corpus Christi holiday weekend as well as the absence of Emilio de Villota both had an effect.BERNARDO PÉREZ
Gilles Villeneuve is pictured in his Ferrari. His win at Jarama would be his sixth and last, as he died in an accident on May 8, 1982 during a practice session at the Belgian Grand Prix. At the time of his death, he was engaged in open warfare with his teammate, Didier Pironi of France (he died in a boating accident in 1987 and also suffered a serious accident shortly after Villeneuve’s fatal crash). At the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix, both had received orders to save fuel. Villenueve complied, but Pironi appeared not to, and took the win. Villeneuve felt betrayed. At the practice session in Belgium in May, during which he was being beaten by Prioni by a tenth of a second and with whom he was fighting for sixth place, he hit another car. Villeneuve’s car flew 100 meters through the air and disintegrated when it hit the track. Still strapped into his seat but having lost his helmet, the driver was launched a 50-meter distance until he hit the safety fence. He died in hospital.
Gilles Villeneuve is pictured in his Ferrari. His win at Jarama would be his sixth and last, as he died in an accident on May 8, 1982 during a practice session at the Belgian Grand Prix. At the time of his death, he was engaged in open warfare with his teammate, Didier Pironi of France (he died in a boating accident in 1987 and also suffered a serious accident shortly after Villeneuve’s fatal crash). At the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix, both had received orders to save fuel. Villenueve complied, but Pironi appeared not to, and took the win. Villeneuve felt betrayed. At the practice session in Belgium in May, during which he was being beaten by Prioni by a tenth of a second and with whom he was fighting for sixth place, he hit another car. Villeneuve’s car flew 100 meters through the air and disintegrated when it hit the track. Still strapped into his seat but having lost his helmet, the driver was launched a 50-meter distance until he hit the safety fence. He died in hospital.BERNARDO PÉREZ
Two members of the organization team watch the race track-side. The drivers had to complete 80 laps of the circuit, which is 3.312 meters long, and required 1,800 gear changes. Jarama circuit was created by John Hugenholtz, who had also designed Suzuka in Japan and Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The track is located near Madrid, in the municipality of San Sebastián de los Reyes. Inaugurated in 1967, a few Spanish Grand Prix had been held there until, in 1969, the country’s race started to be run in Barcelona too, at Montjüic. In 1975, however, a serious accident at the latter circuit saw four killed and 11 serious injuries, prompting a switch to the Circuito del Jarama from 1976 to 1981. In 1980 the war between FISA (Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile) and FOCA (Formula One Constructors' Association) had meant the Spanish Grand Prix was not a point-scoring race for the World Championship.
Two members of the organization team watch the race track-side. The drivers had to complete 80 laps of the circuit, which is 3.312 meters long, and required 1,800 gear changes. Jarama circuit was created by John Hugenholtz, who had also designed Suzuka in Japan and Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The track is located near Madrid, in the municipality of San Sebastián de los Reyes. Inaugurated in 1967, a few Spanish Grand Prix had been held there until, in 1969, the country’s race started to be run in Barcelona too, at Montjüic. In 1975, however, a serious accident at the latter circuit saw four killed and 11 serious injuries, prompting a switch to the Circuito del Jarama from 1976 to 1981. In 1980 the war between FISA (Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile) and FOCA (Formula One Constructors' Association) had meant the Spanish Grand Prix was not a point-scoring race for the World Championship.Raúl Cancio
The starting grid, with the Williams of Alan Jones, number one, and Carlos Reutemann, number two – the favorites ahead of the race. The rivalry between the drivers was so intense that it had already cost them the previous championship. Jacques Laffite, at Talbot, had secured pole position ahead of Jones, who would start second, and Carlos Reutemann, in third. The first part of the race was a demonstration by Jones, who led for the first 14 laps. But when he lapped Eliseo Salazar of Chile, who was running last, he ran off the track. He had lost the chance of winning, but rejoined the race, finishing seventh after a masterclass of driving.
The starting grid, with the Williams of Alan Jones, number one, and Carlos Reutemann, number two – the favorites ahead of the race. The rivalry between the drivers was so intense that it had already cost them the previous championship. Jacques Laffite, at Talbot, had secured pole position ahead of Jones, who would start second, and Carlos Reutemann, in third. The first part of the race was a demonstration by Jones, who led for the first 14 laps. But when he lapped Eliseo Salazar of Chile, who was running last, he ran off the track. He had lost the chance of winning, but rejoined the race, finishing seventh after a masterclass of driving.Raúl Cancio
Villeneuve’s Ferrari was out in the lead from Jones’s off-track excursion to the end, resisting the attacks by Reutemann and Laffite. The latter had had a terrible start and managed to fight his way back to the front from the back of the back. Villeneuve managed to win back on the straights – where he reached speeds of 285km/h – what he was losing on the corners. He managed to avoid any mistakes for 65 laps, resisting the continuous challenges from Laffite, John Watson, Reutemann and Elio de Angelis, who crossed the line with a second between them.
Villeneuve’s Ferrari was out in the lead from Jones’s off-track excursion to the end, resisting the attacks by Reutemann and Laffite. The latter had had a terrible start and managed to fight his way back to the front from the back of the back. Villeneuve managed to win back on the straights – where he reached speeds of 285km/h – what he was losing on the corners. He managed to avoid any mistakes for 65 laps, resisting the continuous challenges from Laffite, John Watson, Reutemann and Elio de Angelis, who crossed the line with a second between them.BERNARDO PÉREZ
The winner of the Grand Prix, Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, is interviewed by a journalist, in the presence of two Civil Guard officers. Villeneuve, who had a slight frame already, lost four kilos of weight during the Grand Prix.
The winner of the Grand Prix, Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, is interviewed by a journalist, in the presence of two Civil Guard officers. Villeneuve, who had a slight frame already, lost four kilos of weight during the Grand Prix.Raúl Cancio
The exhausted winners of the race sit and wait at the podium for their trophies to be awarded. From left: Jacques Laffite, the Frenchman from Talbot (second); Canadian Gilles Villeneuve of Ferrari (the winner); and the UK’s John Watson, from McLaren. Laffite had to be removed from his car by the mechanics, because he had no strength left to get out by himself. He also had to be given oxygen before he could muster enough strength to ascend onto the podium.
The exhausted winners of the race sit and wait at the podium for their trophies to be awarded. From left: Jacques Laffite, the Frenchman from Talbot (second); Canadian Gilles Villeneuve of Ferrari (the winner); and the UK’s John Watson, from McLaren. Laffite had to be removed from his car by the mechanics, because he had no strength left to get out by himself. He also had to be given oxygen before he could muster enough strength to ascend onto the podium.Raúl Cancio
In this picture of the celebrations, a 13-year-old Prince Felipe – now King Felipe VI – can be seen on the right observing the traditional spraying of the champagne.
In this picture of the celebrations, a 13-year-old Prince Felipe – now King Felipe VI – can be seen on the right observing the traditional spraying of the champagne.Raúl Cancio
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