It happened today – 17 May

It happened today - 17 May

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

On 17th May 1981, the Belgian Grand Prix was held at Zolder. The mood was somber at the circuit, with everyone’s mind still on the death of an Osella mechanic on Friday, in a pit lane that was too narrow for Formula 1 cars.

Giovanni Amadeo was only 22 years old. He was hit by the Williams of Carlos Reutemann, the Argentinian who was leading the championship and died in hospital from his injuries. On race day, Reutemann was on pole ahead of the Brazilian Nelson Piquet in the Brabham and the Ferrari 126 CK of Didier Pironi. In the other Prancing Horse car, Gilles Villeneuve could do no better than seventh.

There was more drama at the start, as the first one had to be aborted. At the restart, Riccardo Patrese stalled his Arrows. The Italian waved his arms and, instinctively, the mechanic Dave Luckett jumped the pit wall to try and start the car. But the race had been started and as the cars left the grid, they all avoided the Arrows apart from Patrese’s team-mate Siegfried Stohr, who hit the car and Luckett. It seemed there had been a second tragedy in the space of two days, however, while Luckett appeared lifeless at first, his injuries were not serious. The race continued, but apart from Reutemann and Piquet out in front, the drivers stopped of their own accord and forced the race director to put out the red flag.

Once Luckett had been treated the race resumed, but the result was of little interest to most people. Reutemann won, having also taken pole and the race fastest lap ahead of Frenchman Jacques Laffite and a young Nigel Mansell taking his first podium. A few seconds behind him came Villeneuve in the Ferrari.

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