THE FORMULA ONE SCENE
AT THE end of last season the Renault Formula One team reviewed its season and decided that changes had to be made. Main Prost had won races for the team, but it lost the Drivers’ Championship to Nelson Piquet at the last moment, and it lost the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari, so altogether had not done very well. The outcome was that at short notice Frost left the team, while Eddie Cheever had not even been asked to stay. As Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick joined the Renault team, Frost moved to McLaren to join Lauda with the Porsche-powered McLarens and we all wondered how he would get on with his new team. He had driven for McLaren in his early days as a novice, but all his serious racing had been done with Renault, and there was no doubt that with the Renault he was a natural winner. This season has shown quite clearly that Alain Frost is a natural winner with any good car and his seven wins were impressive by any standards, so our question was answered. In 1983 Frost had been winning races for Renault, not vice-versa, and Renault’s inability to win a single race in 1984 rather supports this view. The one thing about the Renault team for 1984 was that the drivers were two of the most friendly and amiable in the business, and throughout the season this
fact has been enhanced at every race. Neither Tambay nor Warwick can be described as tense or surly or uneo-operative, quite the reverse in fact and everyone in the Formula I paddock, apart from rival teams, would have loved to have seen them score some wins for the Regie Renault, but it was not to be. In the Formula One paddocks the ELF people always have a Motorhome surrounded by tables and chairs, like an outdoor café, with cooling drinks or hot coffee always available, so it makes a good meeting point, especially for journalists and reporters who do not have a fixed base. After every practice session, qualifying session, or race, providing there have not been any desperate dramas, both Tambay and Warwick visited the ELF Motorhome (Warwick particularly for a nice cup of English tea, brewed up by Pam and Dave who run the ELF Motorhome) and make themselves available for a chat with at least five or six journalists. Not only is this appreciated by the Press as it saves them chasing around the paddock looking for the drivers, but it means that both drivers tell their personal stories but once, instead of half a dozen tunes, for everyone wants to know more or
less the same things. Other drivers slink off, or even rush off, to a darkened private Motorhome and you never see them. If some of the weekly “comic” reports have seemed biased towards Tambay and Warwick, you now know the reason why and it is entirely due to the drivers themselves. When the Regie Renault reviewed their 1984 season it could only be described as apalling, but there was no question of dispensing with the drivers. Instead there has been a big change in the team personnel, but mutual agreement, and a very flowery press handout was published explaining why the Team Director Gerard Larousse was leaving. Larousse was in at the beginning of the Renault Formula One project, bringing with him a lot of racing knowledge both as a driver and a teammanager. and with his friend Jean Sage, has been more or less responsible for the team throughout its life. Now he has left and his place has been taken by Gerard Toth, who comes from within the Renault Research and Development department, with a lot of knowledge of engineering and management but virtually no experience of racing. In other words the Regis Renault is about to try a new idea for team management, and Gerard Larousse has joined Guy Ligier, to manage the Renaultpowered Ligier cars. Wandering about in the paddock during practice days I am sub-consciously aware of the make-up of the various teams, and most of them have a key figure who is in total command of the team. At Brabham it is Bernie Ecclestone, at Williams it is Frank Williams himself, at McLaren it is Ron Dennis, at Osella it is Enzo Osella, at Ferrari you are well aware that back at Maranello the old man is in total control and everyone at the race is conscious of that fact, at Lotus it used to be Cohn Chapman. At Renault there has never been a Mr Renault, either at the races or back at base. There is a Managing Director of Regie, but somehow that is not quite the same, for he could leave and join another big firm, or he could retire and hand over to someone else, and looking at the Renault team I have always felt rather uneasy about the situation, for it has not had a “sword of Damocles” hanging over them, and in racing that is something you need. When things go wrong at Ferrari they all know that Monday morning will see the wrath of the old man pouring over them. At Renault you feel it will be a case of arranging a Board Meeting for 3 pm. When the Brabham team goes wrong, little Bernie pops up out of the ground and says “Gordon (Murray) what the hell is going on . . ?” To his credit, when things are a bit tense during a meeting, Bernie does not push in with his “two pennyworth” but stands aside until those who are dealing with a crisis have dealt with it. At ATS Gunther Schmid ‘ always wants to know what is going on with his team, but
usually at the wrong moment!
At Renault Gerard Toth is named as the Director of Renault competition and Director General of Renault Sport, in other words he is in charge of all competitions that are supported by Renault, from Formula Renault to Formula One, and he is in charge of the department at ViryChatillon from where all the competition activity emanates. Once again we will view the forthcoming season of Renault with particular interest. * * *
* * * Monte Carlo
AS we all know Monte Carlo is the town in the Principality of Monaco and the Automobile Club runs two very important events each year, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix. Over the past few years there has been a personal running battle going on between Michele Born of the AC of Monaco and Jean-Marie Balestre of the French Federation and the sporting arm of the International ruling body of motorsport. Much of this antagonism has been behind the scenes and has been kept underground, but for those close to the scene it has been ever present. This year it came out into the open when the Monaco club were censored for having done a deal with a Television company, without going through the FISA channels, thereby depriving FISA of some income. After much haggling it was agreed that the
Monaco GP for 1984 could run its course as a round in the World Championship, but the club would have to re-apply to take part in the 1985 Championships. Not surprisingly when they did apply this past Autumn their application was turned down, so on the face of it there is no Monaco GP in 1985, but . . . Nothing is simple in Formula One, and the date on which the Monaco GP was due to be run has not been filled by another event.
In November the FISA published the 1985 calendar for World Championship Formula One events, but already there is doubt about the opening round being held, which was supposed to be in Dallas in March. Shortly before this calendar appeared one of the motor clubs to which I belong published its calendar of events for 1985; there are 33 events on that calendar and we can all rest assured that every event will take place on the day specified. That club is the Vintage Sports Car Club, but it could also apply to the Jaguar Drivers Club, the BMW Car Club or any other motor club that comes under the jurisdiction of the RAC. These are all amateur organisations run by enthusiasts for their own sport. There are times when I think we have got the terms “Professional” and “Amateur’ muddled up. The world of Formula One is always telling us that they are “professionals” but if the way they run their affairs is professional all I can say is that I am glad I am an amateur.
Formula One Tyres
When the “media” and the “powderpuff press” first got into Formula One, around the early nineteen sixties, Dunlop had a monopoly in racing. Dunlop used to advertise rho fact that such-and-such a Grand Prix had been won on Dunlop, but it was no surprise as all the competitors were on Dunlop tyres and the company would have been hard pushed not to have won. Then Goodyear and Firestone arrived on the scene and set new standards and Dunlop pulled out. A section of the press declared it would be the end of racing! It wasn’t, nor was it when Firestone pulled out, nor again when Goodyear pulled out (albeit only for six months). Now Michelin has pulled out so there has been a mad rush for Goodyear tyres, apart from Bernie Ecclestone who had already done an exclusive deal with Pirelli, exclusive in as much as they have guaranteed not to supply any other Top Team, ie a team that is likely to win. In the financial world, well outside Formula One and any other sort of racing for that matter, it would appear that Michelin has bought a 45% share in Pirelli, and the noises off are to the effect that in a year or two it could be 100%. Any suggestions that the Brabham team will be racing next year on black radial tyres marked Pirelli, but designed and built with the help of Michelin are strongly denied by all parties. Mr Ecclestone seems quite satisfied with the deal he has done with Pirelli, and why shouldn’t he be? — D.S. J.