• Argentine Grand Prix

Jones continues where he left off

ESPN Staff
January 13, 1980
Alan Jones chases down Nelson Piquet on his way to victory © Sutton Images

Alan Jones, who ended the 1979 championship in blistering form, showed his Williams was the car to beat with victory in the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix.

For a time it appeared the race might not go ahead after bitter objections from drivers to the state of the track as it started to disintegrate during qualifying. Sections of the circuit were re-laid overnight but nobody was at all surprised when the repaired parts started falling apart shortly after the start. As conditions grew increasingly slippery, only seven cars went the distance.

Jones made the best use of pole to lead away from the previous year's winner Jacques Laffite in the Ligier. On the second lap Ligier lost its other car when Didier Pironi spun off, and on the third Laffite was passed by Nelson Piquet's Brabham.

The 80,000 crowd were watching Carlos Reutemann's progress through the field from tenth, a surge which came to an end when he was forced into the pits by a blocked air intake. He was far from alone as a succession of others retired.

Jones was not having an easy time either. On the 16th lap he pitted to have a plastic bag removed from a radiator intake, dropping him to fourth, but 14 laps later he was back in the lead after Laffite retired. He stayed at the front until the end despite a couple of minor spins. Piquet and Keke Rosberg were second and third respectively, both standing on the podium for the first time, while Derek Daly took a career-best fourth and Alain Prost, making his F1 debut, finished back in sixth to gain his first points.

For Gilles Villeneuve, who started the season as the bookies' favourite for the championship, it was a disappointing start to what was to be a dismal year for Ferrari. He crashed heavily on the 36th lap and was alarmed that it was completely the fault of the car which had not turned when he had, and the throttle had stuck. "It was frightening," he said. "I was going at 200kph and took my foot off and it didn't slow down. I made the car spin to the side and it hit that way." He walked away unharmed.

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