Director: Torquil Jones | Script: Gabriel ClarkeTorquil Jones Time to play: 98 minutes | Year: 2022
In the 1980s, a select group of people traveled from track to track to race each other in dangerously fast cars. In this world where losing was not an option and great drivers built close friendships through the enormous risks they took in every race, two ambitious men raced: Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. Their story of friendship, rivalry, and high emotions is told in the documentary. villeneuve pironiwhich, despite its lousy pace, offers an interesting insight into the mindset of the Formula 1 world.
The documentary begins very serious. A female voice says that she is going to tell something about a deep betrayal, which has caused people a lot of pain. These first few sentences immediately show how people think in the world of racing. Villeneuve and Pironi died early, but according to the female voice, a ‘betrayal’ is more a cause of pain and sadness than death. If you race on a track near death every week (or watch your loved ones run), of course it’s not surprising.
After the intriguing opening, the two men are briefly introduced by those around them. The documentary is divided into several chapters, of which the chapter on 1982, the year everything went wrong, takes up the most time. The chapter division is therefore very irregular and therefore superfluous, but it works quite well for the first half hour. The two men are well off in the time it takes for this.
At Ferrari, the team where the two competed, there was a rule: if the Ferrari drivers finished first and second during a race, they could not change positions from that moment on. At the Imola race in 1982, Pironi broke that by passing Villeneuve just before the end and winning. Due to the meeting being broken and the fact that Pironi was not immediately called to the canvas by Ferrari, Villeneuve felt massively betrayed. This turns out to be the great betrayal that is talked about at the beginning of the documentary.
It seems incredible that such a relatively small thing can arouse such emotion that a Villeneuve mechanic can say with a deadly serious face that the driver had lost his innocence because of treason. The fact that the documentary suddenly devotes fifteen minutes to the danger of racing shortly before this alleged betrayal may offer an explanation for this reaction. When the many serious accidents occur, it becomes very clear how important it is in the world of racing that drivers can trust each other. So it’s almost understandable how Villeneuve reacts.
During the racing weekend that followed Imola, Villeneuve died as a result of a serious fall. In the ten minutes that elapse between the betrayal and the accident, the documentary slowly builds up some tension. So it’s pretty clear that something will happen and that it will be a relatively serious crash, but, partly due to the lack of dramatic music, it’s only clear that Villeneuve dies the moment his body is shown crashing into the security bar.
Villeneuve’s death is therefore a great surprise and the documentary reflects well the shock that those around him must have felt. One drawback, however, is that the clash comes very early in the documentary, which raises the question of what can be said in the remaining forty minutes if one of the two main characters is already dead. This turns out to be mostly the brief continuation of the life of Pironi, who crashes hard once with his racing car and is later killed with his speedboat.
Unlike Villeneuve’s death, Pironi’s two accidents are announced very subtly and the moment of the accident is greatly lengthened to the accompaniment of standard dramatic music. Also, both accidents are not shown, while Villeneuve is. These two differences make Pironi crashes very boring and almost cliché or fake and have much less impact than the three second Villeneuve crash.
The documentary (finally) ends with the comment that Didier Pironi hasn’t become as well known as Gilles Villeneuve and that’s a shame. So it’s understandable that a documentary was made about the two, though it’s ironic that Pironi is already out of the spotlight for the way his story has been portrayed.
villeneuve pironi can be seen in SkyShowtime.