The 1982 German GP had a tragic epilogue for the then leading man of the championship Didier Pironi who crashed in qualifying and sustained heavy injuries.
Hockenheim had been modified for 1982 with slower first chicane and cars were extremely fast in the last year of ground effect aerodynamics, which enabled the generation of unseen levels of downforce, and in 1983 there was a big change in rules which banned designing the car around this aerodynamic concept.
After 11 of 16 racef od 1982 F1 World Championship, Didier Pironi led with 39 points, ahead of John Watson who had 30, Alain Prost with 25, Niki Lauda with 24 points and Keke Rosberg with 23 points.
That season there were big differences between the cars because only the Brabham (BMW), Renault, Ferrari and Toleman drivers had turbo engines that dominated on the long Hockenheim straights. Ferrari, Renault and Brabham took the top six places in qualifying while the seventh Michele Alboreto in Tyrrell was nearly three seconds behind the sixth Patrese.
Pironi was the fastest man in qualifying in mixed weather conditions, but he also tested the new Goodyear rain tyres on training. While in the fast lap, Pironi tried to overtake Derek Daly in Williams so he hit the barely visible rear end of Prost’s Renault, which launched him into the air.
Pironi landed at the rear end of his Ferrari, survived the accident, but also sustained severe injuries to his legs which sidelined him away from Formula 1. In the same year, another Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve had a deadly crash in Belgian Zolder.
After half an hour, the Pironi managed to get out of the car, and the French asked FIA’s doctor Sida Watkins not to ampute his severely injured legs, and the Englishman kept his promise to the injured driver.
The Frenchman did not return to Formula 1, and when he could finally walk in 1986, he decided to return to boat racing. But, sadly, on August 23, 1987, he died at age 35 in British Freshwater after having struck a large wave with his Colibri 4 ship which was created by an oil tanker, after which the ship flipped and killed two more crew members , journalist Bernard Giroux and Pironi’s old friend Jean-Calude Guenard.
After his death, Pironi’s wife born twins, and in honor of Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve they were named Didier and Gilles.
Gilles Pironi joined the Mercedes F1 team as an engineer in 2014.
Although he missed four of 16 races in 1982, Pironi lost the championship title for just five points from Keke Rosberg. At the German Grand Prix in 1982, Pironi’s team-mate Patrick Tambay won for the first time in his career, second finished Rene Arnoux in Renault, and the third Keke Rosberg in Williams.