GO FASTER STRIKES
Larus FLAD GONE ALMOST FOUR YEARS WITHOUT A WIN. NOT SINCE the 1978 Dutch GP had Cohn Chapman’s famous black cap been flung exultantly skyward. And so it flew higher than ever when Elio de Angelis scored an unexpected (and nailbiting) victory at the Osterreichring.
Beyond the immediate emotion lay pleasing symmetry. Lotus had given Cosworth’s DFV a memorable debut win some 15 years before. And now Chapman was welcoming home the 150th success of Keith Duckworth’s masterpiece of compact, concise and clear-thinking engineering.
But when that cap hit the Tarmac, it lay as a metaphorical full stop. For this was an end, too. Chapman had been the most fervent of the anti-turbo lobby. Until, that is, a few days before the Austrian Grand Prix, which is when he signed a deal to bolt Renault’s V6 into his chassis for 1983. The game was up. The British garagistes could no longer survive on brains alone. They needed 1000bhp of foreign manufacturer brawn as well. Yet in 1981, Bemie Ecclestone’s Formula One Constructors’ (the C could easy have stood for Cosworth) Association had
pledged unity. They had proved they could do it, going ahead with the South African GP in the absence of the turbo ‘Grandees’, and mooting their ‘pirate’ World Federation of Motor Sport. But now they were all falling over themselves to link up with a supplier of turbo power.
The 1982 season was, above all else, one of transition. High ideals were spouted, moral high ground and High Court actions taken, but pragmatism laid everything else low.
The 1981 FISA/FOCA ‘peace agreement’ had allowed the constructors a foot in FISA’s door via the new Formula One Commission. And, ironically, it was they whom the drivers targeted their anger at in Kyalami, planned scene of the ’82 season-opener. The turbos had stayed away from the South African track in 1981. But this time no-one was planning to race. The cars stayed under their covers during Thursday while their drivers took cover in the meeting room of the Sunnyside Park Hotel. Even wives and girlfriends were not allowed into their makeshift dorm. The root of such self-imposed privations? Niki Lauda, in the main. Having been coaxed back by McLaren’s Ron Dennis
after a self-imposed two-year absence, this most cerebral of racing drivers, this most astute of racing drivers, was ready to flex his muscles. He didn’t like two new clauses in FISA’s Superlicence, particularly the one which tied him to a single team, and so he didn’t sign it. Most of his colleagues had signed (willingly or otherwise) when the licences were issued in December ’81. But ‘shop steward’ Lauda, by hook or by crook, soon whipped up support for his stand.
“It was a con, basically,” says Keke Rosberg. ‘When I arrived at the paddock gate, there was a bus waiting and I was told to get in because we were all going for a meeting. But there was never any intention of a meeting; it was the beginning of the strike.”
Didier Pironi, the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (to become the more inclusive Professional Racing Drivers’ Association two weeks later), acted as go-between; Lauda took his calls and relayed them to his ‘brothers’.
The top table — Lauda, Prost, Piquet, Reutemann — were vocal. The lesser lights listened, almost bewildered.
“The young drivers didn’t really understand the situation,” says Derek Warwick, a man on the verge of his second season. “Niki wanted this and that changed, detail stuff, whereas I was just happy to be in Formula One.
“What 1 did learn from the experience, though, was that Elio de Angelis was a fantastic bloke, who could have been a classical pianist. He and Gilles Villeneuve [ragtime] kept us entertained.” Warwick also learned a startling amount about terrorism and machine guns during a remarkably wellinformed lecture by Alfa Romeo’s Bruno Giacomelli.
The drivers slept on mattresses scattered over the floor in what was widely condemned as a schoolboy prank. It all came to an unshaven, unkempt end on Friday morning when Lauda received a call from Pironi that he was happy with.
Reality bit, of course, when they returned to the track.
Bernie Ecclestone was still furious with his world champion. All three Brabhams had Riccardo Patrese’s number on them, and he refused to send Piquet out in the morning session, stating that he was in no fit state to drive.
Of course, it was all very different when the bosses had a grievance. After the FIA Court of Appeal backed the Stewards of the Meeting’s decision to disqualify the ‘underweight’ Brabham and Williams from first and second place in the Brazilian GP (see page 251, FOCA were up in, and called to, arms. Now it was their turn to strike. Unless the decision was rescinded, they would boycott the upcoming San Marino GP. It wasn’t. They did. Pragmatism raised its head once again, though. Ken Tyrrell was another fervent anti-turbo man. Trouble was, he’d just signed a three-race deal with an Italian sponsor and, having gone a season without external financial backing, could not afford to alienate them with a no-show. He flew the FOCA flag, however, protesting all turbos because they possessed turbines which were, in effect, secondary power sources, and which had been banned from Fl
This red herring would flap on the dock for months. Indeed, the wrangling would continue until the end of the season. But the pettiness of it had been brought into focus by Gilles Villeneuve’s crash in May. While the world mourned the loss of the era’s most exciting driver, the sport, as Ecclestone regularly and correctly (if coldly) points out, got on with its business.
Which is why he had caved into BMW’s demands that his Brabhams use its teething in-line four turbo rather the long-in-the-tooth, but better-suited, DFV in Belgium. Which is why McLaren did an exclusive deal with TAG to develop a Porsche V6 turbo. Which is why Chapman and Cosworth had to go their separate ways.
If the Fl cap fits, don’t throw it away, wear it. Paul Fearnley