One thing that is becoming fairly standardised is that if the administration world of Formula One says something you need not listen too closely, because by the time you have absorbed the statement it will have been changed! The 1985 season will start with the Dalias Grand Prix; a simple enough statement, and the date was clearly given as being March 24th. Now, it seems the 1985 season will start in Brazil on April 7th. The Dallas race has been cancelled, but don’t ask me why; it could be that last year’s race did not make enough money, or even lost money, it could be that FISA wanted to change the date against the wishes of the organisers, it could be that the organisers were disenchanted with the Formula One “circus”, it could be this, it could be that. There is no agreement among the various reasons put forward. Like the Grand Prix at Long Beach, the Grand Prix at Las Vegas, the Grand Prix in Japan, the Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, the Grand Prix at Mosport, the Grand Prix at Jarama, the Grand Prix at Nivelles, it would seem that the Grand Prix at Dallas has disappeared in a cloud of (gold) dust. Equally one could ask what has become of the Grand Prix events that used to be held at Rouen, Reims, Albi, Clermont-Ferrand, Pau, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Oporto, Bari, Naples, Siracuse, Geneva, Berne, Lausanne, Turin, Bruxelles, Anderstorp, Avus, Solitude, Grenzlandring, and probably a few more I have forgotten, like Pescara, Tripoli, San Sebastian and so on. It looks as though Grand Prix racing has been tried in or near about every decent sized town in Europe, and a lot of the rest of the world. It still happens at Monza, Silverstone, Nürburgring(!), Francorchamps, Zandvoort and many other newer places ‘like Brands Hatch, Österreichring, Imola and Zolder etc. You might get the impression that Grand Prix racing is an unstable activity, compared with cricket at Lords, football at Wembley, horse racing at Epsom or rowing at Henley, and you would be right. And what happened to the Grand Prix at Aintree?
The start of the 1985 season at Brazil seems to be fairly assured and most of the teams are about to set off for some “testing” at the Rio de Janeiro circuit, in collaboration with the Goodyear tyre company, as most of them will be using Goodyear tyres this year, apart from Brabham, whose tyres say Pirelli on the side walls (I hope!). The Brazilian GP is due to be run on April 7th and as soon as the cars get back from there they have to be serviced and sent off to Portugal for the Grand Prix at Estoril on April 21st. From then on the 1985 season really gets under way, with a race on nearly every other weekend, almost right through to October, so stand by your television sets, turn Murray Walker “up” or “down” to choice and think how lucky you are to be able to see and hear it all happening almost live and in colour (if you are well blessed). Think back to the good old days when you were, lucky indeed to get a few lines in the Monday Tabloids about the Monaco GP, a brief report in The Motor on Wednesday and longer reports in Autosport and The Autocar on Friday, but you had to wait until the 1st of the next month to read a really full Grand Prix story in Motor Sport. Today, if you don’t know all there is to know about a Grand Prix by the Wednesday following the event you haven’t been paying attention. You can have a pretty good working idea by Monday lunchtime, and if you are a reader of A.H. in Motoring News you can know just about all that is worth knowing by Wednesday morning; even Tuesday evening in some parts of the country. This is all due to the ever improving system of communications that has grown throughout the world in the last two decades, and it will get even better in the next few years if Trade Unions don’t put a damper on the journalistic world.
All of this inevitably leaves the monthly journal a long way behind, for even if it used all the latest communications technology a monthly is often not due on sale until three or even four weeks after an event. Due to this, and other factors, I shall be trying to alter Motor Sport’s approach to Grand Prix racing. Nor to alter my enthusiasm for Grand Prix, for that hasn’t changed since1934, so it is hardly likely to change now, nor my enthusiasm for the Grand Prix car and especially the Grand Prix engine, or even the good Grand Prix drivers, but to the aspect of reporting. With our revised printing schedules and new-publication date of the last Friday in the month, it means that a lot of Formula One events will be taking place too late in the month to do a proper story for the issue that follows. We tried it last year with one or two events, but in my estimation they were a failure, a half-hearted job not done properly, due to having to leave the circuit within minutes of the end of the race, write the story in an airport waiting room and rely on a, lot of second-hand information because time did not allow me to look into things in detail. When a Grand Prix falls that close to our printing deadline in future I intend to send off a very brief resume of the event with the bare results, and to stay behind until the dust has settled and to absorb the aftermath of the event at my leisure, which I find more interesting anyway. This will mean that the “nitty gritty” or “nuts and bolts” of the event will not appear in Motor Sport until a month later, but at least it should make more interesting reading. Regular readers will be aware that after certain Grand Prix events I write “Reflections” on the event. The time-scale prevents this happening at every Grand Prix and the office staff who assemble and co-ordinate Motor Sport often cannot understand why I don’t reflect on every Grand Prix. The answer is that you need time to “reflect” and you cannot do it while you are in a mad rush to catch the last aircraft back to England, you need to linger at the circuit or in the area, watch the teams pack their transporters, see them set off for home, wander round the circuit and look at the spots where deeds of derring-do were performed during the race, even where disaster struck. A time to reflect…
To return to the instant, there are going to be many new faces in new places when the season starts, or old faces in new places, and even some new faces in old places. With the reasonable break between the end of the 1984 season and the beginning of the 1985 season I suspect that there has been time for some of the people in Formula One to do a bit of reflecting and realise that they’d like a change of scene, or an improvement to their position.
Williams-Honda: Major change here will be the sight of Nigel Mansell scratching away in the Honda powered FW09 to start with, keeping Rosberg on his toes (as if that was necessary!), and hopefully both of them in Patrick Head’s FW10 as soon as possible. This new car should see the beginning of the end of the aluminium-honeycomb sheet construction for the monocoque, for Head has moved into carbon-fibre-composite construction, “baking” his own cake in his own oven at the Didcot factory. A pleasant face that will be missing from the team is that of Neil Oatley, the quiet and confident engineer who looked after the number two car in the team. When chaos reigned in the Williams pit and it often did last season, and everyone was ‘up tight’ or shouting, you would see Neil standing quietly by looking glum, but saying nothing. While people harangued Frank Williams, Frank Dernie, Rosberg or the chief mechanic saying “What’s happening, what’s happening…” if you caught Neil’s eye and quietly murmured, “Things look pretty bad” he would often give a half-smile and say, “It’ll be alright”. At other times I would say, “Are you in trouble?” and if he nodded and said, “Yes”, there was no need to say any more. You knew exactly where you stood with Neil. I, for one, will miss his quiet confidence in the Williams’ team and the reason he will be missed is that he has left Williams to join a newly formed team with high hopes for the future, and I know everyone in the pit lane will wish him luck.
McLaren International: Anyone who studied the article on this team in the December Motor Sport will know that its major problem for 1985 is quite simple, “What do we do for an encore”. It could win every race in 1985, instead of only 75% of the races, and I am sure that deep down that is what it intends to do. In spite of a few wild dreams by outsiders that the Porsche-TAG engine would be available to other teams it would seem that not even money can buy them to be put anywhere other than in John Barnard’s chassis. World Champion Niki Lauda and his “shadow” Alan Prost are remaining faithful to the Woking team, as well they might. I use the word “shadow” bearing in mind that if the sun is behind you your shadow will be in front of you! Like the Williams team there is a small change in the engineering staff of the McLaren team, in that Alan Jenkins, Who looked after Prost’s car last year, has left to join the Penske Indycar team. If Ron Dennis and John Barnard want to improve on their fantastic 1984 season one thing they could do is to repeat the performance without the dramas. Things like Prost changing to the spare car at the last moment, starting from the pit lane, crashing cars or blowing up a couple of hours before the start, starting cars almost down in mid-field, and “pussy footing” to the finish in the lead without letting anyone realise it.
New Teams: A new name in Formula One was revealed at the end of last season, though it did not take part. This was Erich Zakowski’s Zakspeed team, a name extremely well known in the tuning, saloon car and sports car world, and one that is highly respected by reason of results not words. Zakowski hails from Germany, with a business in Niederzissen south of the Eifel Mountains. He has built his own car in its entirety, even to the engine, for Zakspeed engine tuning and development has been a by-word in German racing circles for a long time. If its development work has been similar to that of our own Brian Hart, starting with a basic four-cylinder Ford engine and ending up with his own four-cylinder racing engine. You start by improving the original components, with new cranks rods, pistons, valves, camshafts, cam-driver train, new sump, new cylinder head, new block and comes the day when you realise you have created an entirely new engine, which is how the present Hart 415T came about. Zakowski has been going along the same path, and is now prepared to have a go at Formula One. Of particular interest is the fact that he has taken Jonathan Palmer as his driver. They do not intend to do the entire 1985 season, so consequently will not be able to score points in the World Championship by reasons of one of the odd FISA rules, but nonetheless it will be an interesting project to keep an eye on.
Another new team that is proposing to appear before the end of the season is an American consortium headed by Carl Haas Enterprises and a big bag of dollars from an American sponsor. Carl Haas has been loud in American racing for a long time now and his partner in the team is the experienced Edward Mayer who was for so long with Bruce McLaren. All the noises suggest that Alan Jones will return from Australia to drive the car. As yet it doesn’t exist, but this is the team that Oatley has joined, so we can expect the Carl Hass Special to look like a cross between an FW09 and an FW10, except that at the moment they do not have an engine to put in the back; and in my book the engine is a rather important part of the car these days. Even more important is the turbo-charger manufacturer, and they don’t have one of those either. Though it could be that they will use Hart-Holset engines.
Team Tyrrell: You have to admire Ken Tyrrell, for he will not give up. Having been stripped of all his successes in 1984 by the FIA, losing the points and places that his drivers scored for him, he has now got a French court of law to annul the FIA decision. Naturally the FIA says it can’t be done, but Tyrrell’s law man says it has been done, so we have another legal impasse that is going to drag on for the rest of this year. The team are pressing on with the construction of a new car, number 014 and it looks like 1985 will be a case of “now you see it, now you don’t”. Its reality depending on who is winning in the courtroom. Perhaps if Tyrrell had been really brave and called his new car 013, his luck might change.