1985 Canadian Grand Prix race report

Race winner Michele Alboreto in his Ferrari 156/85.

Michele Alboreto took his debut Ferrari win

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Montreal, June 17th 

Team Lotus may well have qualified both its Renault EFlS-engined 97Ts on the front row of the starting grid, but it was the scarlet, fine-handling Ferraris of Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson which stormed through to score an impressive 1-2 triumph in the 70 lap 1985 edition of the Canadian Grand Prix.

A somehow appropriate outcome if you think about it, for Montreal’s sentimentally-titled Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is virtually regarded as hallowed ground by the devotees of the Prancing Horse, the great French Canadian driver having won there for Maranello back in 1978 and starred on several other occasions as well. In some ways, it could be argued, the grid might not have been quite as representative as it should. Alboreto’s final qualifying was badly compromised when an oil leak set the rear bodywork of his car aflame, causing him to abandon it out on the circuit after which he failed to improve during a brief stint in the team spare. He lined up third behind de Angelis and Senna, With Stefan Johansson at last displaying form more representative of his true ability and lining up alongside his team leader on the second row.

The Canadian Grand Prix was a long race, dominated by concern over marginal fuel capacity on the part of many teams. De Angelis went straight into the lead from Senna, the Italian demonstrating a maturity and determination which has been finely honed in recent months by his highly talented, and significantly less experienced, team-mate. Senna ran second for the first six laps before loss of turbo boost pressure, caused by a loose retaining clip, allowing a pipe to work loose, requiring him to stop for attention and lost him five laps on the leaders. However, rather than climbing out of the car and stumping away in a bad mood, the Brazilian hurtled back into the race with tremendous gusto and raced hard all the way to the finish, establishing a new outright circuit record even though all chances of a decent finishing position had vanished.

Nigel Mansell walks from his Williams FW10 during Saturday qualifying when he suffered a problem with a Honda turbo.

Nigel Mansell walks away from his Williams after his turbo let go during qualifying

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Race

De Angelis held onto the lead for 15 laps before Alboreto wore him down and slipped ahead of his compatriot. From that point onwards the Ferrari team leader held sway all the way to the chequered flag, although Johansson, hampered with a slight misfire, rather cheekily pulled up onto Alboreto’s tail on a couple of occasions. Alboreto responded with an extra turn of the cockpit boost control to pull away briefly again and the Swede got the message that it would be appropriate to settle for second place!

Probably the most impressive aspect of the Ferrari performance was the fact that the two cars ran competitively from start to finish with no undue anxiety about fuel consumption, underlining the fact that Maranello has addressed the power fuel efficiency equation every bit as effectively as the Porsche engineers at Weissach. Alain Prost’s McLaren wound up third at the end of the day, but the Frenchman reckoned the whole affair was rather soul-destroying, all a question of rivetting one’s eyes on the digital fuel read-outs in the cockpit and then pressing on as hard as one is allowed to without risking the tank running dry before the chequered flag.

Alain Prost in his McLaren MP4-2B.

Alain Prost came through from 5th to finish 3rd in his McLaren

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For a while experienced observers on the sidelines were wondering whether Prost had judged things just right. As de Angelis, worried about his Renault engine’s fuel consumption, its poor throttle response in intermediate gears and increasing understeer, dropped steadily back to finish fifth, Prost came tearing up behind Patrick Tambay’s works Renault and when the RE60 broke third gear the sole surviving McLaren moved into third place behind the two Ferraris.

Britain’s Derek Warwick had a most disappointing race with his Renault, qualifying sixth and feeling quite good during practice. But the driver found his car’s handling had mysteriously deteriorated when it came to race day, and although he briefly held fourth place in the opening sprint, he dropped to 12th with a quick spin and later hit the guard rail which eliminated his RE60 from the contest.

Keke Rosberg in his Williams FW10 passes Jacques Laffite in a Ligier JS25.

Williams’ Keke Rosberg passes the Ligier of Jacques Laffite

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The Williams-Honda FW10s were still not very smooth and progressive when it came to power delivery out of the tight corners, but both Rosberg and Mansell managed to finish in the top six. The Finn made an early stop to investigate fluctuating turbo boost pressure, but an adjustment to the cockpit switch seemed to make matters better and he resumed the chase. He then spun at the hairpin, after trying to pass Warwick on the outside, then stopped again for fresh tyres. But he drove absolutely flat-out for the entire afternoon, climbing back to take a fine fourth place, With Nigel Mansell sixth in the other Williams it was a good day for the Didcot team which used the latest specification, heavily redesigned Honda V6 in both cars. It may still be difficult to drive, but it clearly has no fuel consumption problem – part of the reason behind developing it in the first place.

World Champion Niki Lauda had another disappointing weekend, qualifying very poorly in 27th slot, starting gently and then showing signs of pulling through the field in typical style when the McLaren’s engine began blowing out its coolant and he retired on lap 38.

Martin Brundle finished 12th in his Tyrrell 012.

Martin Brundle finished 12th for Tyrrell

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In the Brabham camp there was a generally despondent atmosphere for team leader Piquet left the circuit on Saturday afternoon, possibly after something broke in the rear suspension, and the impact as he went over a high kerb pretty smartly wrote off the right rear corner of his machine, the BT54 three-wheeling to a halt with the left front rim off the deck. In the race Piquet succumbed to terminal gearbox problems on the opening lap, but poor Marc Surer ground round non-stop to the finish, emerging three laps behind the leaders and wondering why he had cast aside a perfectly reasonable sports car drive to end up with this seemingly insurmountable problem!

Amongst the Pirelli-shod cars, the Ligier JS25s are currently the most consistently impressive competitors, usually running somewhere midfield and having a quite reasonable finishing record. De Cesaris would have finished in the top six had it not been for a ridiculous pirouette early on, recovering abruptly from which he wiped Manfred Winkelhock’s RAM out of the race against the barrier. The Italian stopped for a fresh nose section to be fitted and then pressed on gamely to the end of the race, only slowed slightly over the last few laps when a leaking caliper reduced the Ligier’s powers of retardation quite considerably.

Michele Alboreto, 1st position, Stefan Johansson, 2nd position and Alain Prost, 3rd position, on the podium.

Michele Alboreto (centre) celebrates with team-mate Stefan Johansson (left) position and Prost

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He finished 14th while team-mate Jacques Laffite actually crossed the finishing line in seventh place, but was subsequently docked a minute for an over-eager start from his position near the back of the grid.

The race took place in somewhat overcast conditions which were something of a disappointment following two days of sunshine throughout practice. Ferrari had proved again that they should never be underestimated and Johansson had made something of a personal breakthrough against the run of bad luck he seems to have sustained ever since he joined the Italian team. Finally, Rosberg and Senna underlined that they are top drawer racers, not prepared to let any minor mechanical problem get in the way of their passion for running hard and fast for as long as is necessary. — A.H.

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