Imola, 1st May
When the first Grand Prix of San Marino was mooted for 1981 a lot of people scoffed and said it was absurd for the tiny Principality near the Adriatic coast to have a Grand Prix on the International Formula One calendar. You can hardly drive a Fiat Panda round the mountain-top town, let alone race Grand Prix cars round it, but the San Marino Automobile Federation had no intention of holding their Grand Prix in the ancient city, they planned to use the Imola Autodromo between their Principality and the town of Bologna, and to get the Automobile Club of Bologna to run it for them. This year saw the running of only the third Grand Prix of San Marino, but the whole affair has taken off so well that you would think it was the 30th.
It is like the Austrian GP when it was held for the first time on the newly-built Osterreichring, it got off the ground immediately, and the San Marino race at Imola has done the same thing. It is all a matter of having the right ingredients, the right reasons for the event, the right circuit, the right atmosphere, the right organisation. The third Gran Premio San Marino was a superb event. Grand Prix racing is alive and well and lives in Italy.
Although we have had Formula One races already this year in Brazil and California they can never witness a total commitment by the teams as they are too far from the home base. The French GP at the featureless Paul Ricard circuit recently was a bit unreal and you felt that most people did not really believe they were back in Europe, but by the end of April when official practice began on the Imola Autodromo everyone had their feet firmly planted back in Europe and there was a very exciting atmosphere about the pits and paddock on Friday morning as engines were warmed-up, tyres fitted, adjusunents made to aerodynamic tweaks, refuelling and wheel changing equipment set up, spare engines unloaded and new designs of tyre assembled.
A quick look down the row of large and well-equipped pit lane garages showed that the three Ferraris (065, 064 and 062) all had the new rear suspension that appeared briefly in practice at Brands Hatch, and has since been thoroughly tested at Fiorano, Spa and Imola. This has wide-base wishbones and an inboard mounted spring anit operated by a pull-rod working on a swinging link on which the spring is mounted. The whole affair is much more rigid and controllable than the old rocker-arm system and provides improved geometry to keep the tyres in better contact with the road. The cars were carrying enormous rear aerofoils and had huge fibreglass air ducts to the front brakes as braking on the undulating Imola circuit is of prime importance.
In the Brabham pits was a brand new BT52, number four, which was destined for Patrese, while Piquet had BT52 / 3 and number one was the spare car. Still with carbon-fibre brake discs the cars had extra air ducts to the rear ones, these being clipped onto the normal cooling ducts. Renault also had a new car, RE40 / 03 for Prost, the Frenchman’s Paul Ricard-winning car taking on the position of spare car for him and Cheever, the prototype car RE40 / 00 being scrapped. The ATS team were finishing off a new car for Winkelhock, to the same design as the previous car, with carbon-fibre composite monocoque and BMW turbocharged engine, but a bit lighter overall by attention to details; this was D6-02.
Surprisingly the Arrows team found the monocoque of Serra’s car, which went upside down at high speed in practice for the French GP, almost undamaged and the whole car was rebuilt and back in service. At the end of the pit lane the Osella team, under the direction of Tony Southgate, were finishing off a new car made from old bits for Ghinzani. The whole point of this project was the V12 Alfa Romeo 3-litre engine supplied to Enzo Osella by Auto Delta, complete with gearbox, transmission and rear suspension, which Southgate had grafted onto one of the old Osella aluminium monocoques as a test-car, before embarking on a new one. With three spare Alfa Romeo V12 engines in the van it was probably a better bet to have obsolete Italian engines than obsolete Cosworth engines.
All the other teams seemed to be in good order, Lotus with their two Renault V6-powered cars for de Angelis and the two Cosworth-powered cars for Mansell, with a DFY unit standing by to replace the DFV, while McLaren had three DFY engines for Lauda and Watson, but only as a stop-gap until the Porsche turbocharged engines are available. The Toleman-Hart team had revised their suspension front and back, to give more travel and the engine in Warwick’s car was Brian Hart’s latest with two sparking plugs per cylinder; the normal one in the centre of the combustion chamber and the second one between the two inlet valves lying almost horizontally in the side of the monobloc casting. These extra plugs were fired from a second distributor on the back of the engine, below the normal one. The electronic fuel injection system was the work of Hart and Lucas.
Judging by the quantity of tyres about the place Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli were not pulling any punches and their competitive battle was as hard as that of the engine manufacturers. In spite of what some people think about handling, road-holding, aerodynamics and driver skill, the engine of a Grand Prix car instill the most important part, other factors merely being used to try and make up for an engine deficiency. Imola is the spiritual home of Ferrari, the Autodromo being named after Enzo’s son Dino, and it is only 55 miles from Maranello so it can be considered to be the heart of Ferrari country. From the word go it was clear that Renault, BMW and Alfa Romeo were out to trounce the cars from Maranello on their home ground. The Alfa Romeo team, run by Paulo Pavanello’s Euroracing team, were a bit like a ship without a captain as the Frenchman Gérard Ducarouge had been sacked from his position as team co-ordinator following the fiasco of the exclusion of the Cesaris’ car at the French GP practice reported last month. However, there was no shortage of Alfa Romeo mechanics and staff, nor of the compact V8 turbocharged Alfa Romeo engines.
When the Friday morning test-session began at 10 a.m. the Autodromo was still damp from heavy overnight rain and as everyone was geared up to test various types of dry-weather tyre, there was not much enthusiasm to start. As the weather was warm and hazy, conditions began to improve and activity soon began, only to stop very abruptly for Patrick Tambay when his Ferrari died with electrical trouble. While he waited for the spare car to be adjusted for him he must have thought “Paul Ricard all over again”, especially as Arnoux was circulating in the other Ferrari without any bothers.
By 11 a.m. testing was in full swing and everyone was out on the track, and the scene was becoming very clear; it was going to be a battle of the industrial giants with the small-time special-builders like Williams, Tyrrell and McLaren with their 3-litre Cosworth V8 engines being lucky to see which way the last turbocharged car went. For the really small teams like Theodore, RAM-March, Arrows and Ligier they could only hope to try and keep up. However, a pleasant surprise was to see the Swiss driver Marc Surer in the leading Arrows A6 up with the “professionals”, on sheer driving ability and enthusiasm for the Imola circuit, for it is one of those circuits on which a fast lap makes the driver very satisfied that he has accomplished something worthwhile.
In the afternoon conditions were good when the timed qualifying hour got under way at 1 p.m. With only two sets of tyres allowed to each driver and some of the special Goodyear ones only good for a single flying lap, drivers can take their time about deciding when to go out and they all try to pick a time when not too many slower cars are out there. After his morning troubles Tambay went out early, simply to get some mileage, and Surer went out promptly to post a good time before the traffic got too thick. Warwick was all set to have a real go with the Toleman fitted with the dual-ignition Hart engine when he was forced back into the pits with a loss of turbocharge pressure. The connecting pipe to the intercooler had split and there was feverish activity to replace it. While this was being done he went out in the spare Toleman-Hart but that developed an oil leak so his second lap of the afternoon, with the engine misfiring, had to count for qualifying and that put him in tenth position at the back of all the big factory turbocharged cars.
Toleman were not the only team in trouble for Tambay’s Ferrari engine blew up and the spare Ferrari was not running cleanly so he could qualify no better than fifth, while Arnoux had the fans cheering loudly with fastest time of the afternoon in 1 min. 33.419 sec., an average speed of just over 120 m.p.h. round the exciting little circuit. But engine trouble was not confined to Ferrari alone, for Patrese had to take the spare Brabham when his own car’s BMW engine broke, and de Angelis had to take the spare Lotus-Renault when the engine in his number one car wrecked a turbocharger, but not before he had set his best time in it. In the Alfa Romeo camp there was also turbocharger trouble, these units being made by Alfa Romeo themselves, incorporating many design features from KKK and Garrett but even so de Cesaris and Mauro Baldi were well in the hunt.
Anyone who thought the obsolete Cosworth-powered brigade were going to put up some opposition to the new engines were sadly disillusioned, for there were turbocharged engines in the first ten cars at the end of the qualifying hour, and some of them had recorded their times in far from 100% condition. The order was Ferrari, BMW, Renault, Renault, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Renault and Hart, in respectively, Ferrari, Brabham, Renault, Renault, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Alfa Romeo, ATS, Lotus and Toleman and there was still another Toleman and another Brabham that were out of the running for the moment. While some drivers and teams were worrying about the situation, Surer had got on with the job and got his Arrows A6 at the head of the 3-litre brigade, in eleventh place overall. It was all getting very serious.
Anyone not knowing would have thought Saturday was race day, the crowds were enormous and 90% of them seemed to be waving Ferrari banners and many of them still believed that Ferrari No. 27 belonged to Gilles Villeneuve. Most race organisers would have settled for this crowd on race day and considered their event a success, but this was only the second day of practice at Imola. Conditions were warm and sunny and the morning test session saw not only a lot of activity but also a disproportionate amount of mechanical mayhem. Nobody was actually flying off the road, though there were a few harmless excursions here and there, but Patrese had to change over to the spare Brabham again when his own car broke a drive-shaft. Guerrero had a similar happening on his Theodore-Ensign and with the spare car a non-runner he was forced to sit in the sun. Rosberg was in the spare Williams, which is the latest FW08C, while his own car had the rear springs changed, Lauda went out in the spare McLaren and de Angelis used his second Renault-powered Lotus 93T with a normal rear aerofoil in place of the four-bladed one. Giacomelli abandoned his Toleman-Hart out on the circuit when the oil pressure failed and Warwick’s dual ignition engine wasn’t working properly.
Mansell was using his Cosworth DFY engine as was Watson, and Lauda had one in his number one car, but didn’t rate it much of an improvement over a good DFV. The Williams team were remaining faithful to their John Judd developed Cosworth engines for Rosberg, rather than the new Cosworth works engine. Arnoux’s Ferrari broke its engine and there was some feverish work to install another one but the Renault team seemed trouble free and were getting on quietly juggling with all the variables in preparation for the qualifying hour in the afternoon.
While all the hangers-on, non-workers and party-goers had an early lunch the garage/workshops were a hive of activity as engines were changed, parts replaced, tyres were sorted out, gearboxes were checked and so on, as mechanics and engineers did their utmost to get all the cars in good fettle for the handful of qualifying laps their drivers were going to do between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The Toleman garage was a sorry sight with only the spare car complete and plans were laid for both Warwick and Giacomelli to use it to make their lap time for the starting grid, with the Englishman obviously having the first go. In the Alfa Romeo garage de Cesaris had opted to use the spare car from preference, but all the other teams had got their drivers in their proper cars. The fact that none of the big works teams sent a car out when the circuit was opened for qualifying indicated that something was in the wind. The Renault team were still in the shade of their pit garages as was the Ferrari team. The BMW engines were being warmed-up at a constant 4,500 r.p.m. making their harsh crackle from the megaphone exhaust pipe that is characteristic of the Munich engines, and the Alfa Romeo garage seemed to have a thousand people in it, all milling around the two drivers.
There was such a tenseness in the air that it was obvious we were in for some very short, but very sharp action, and the thousands of Italians in the grandstands opposite the pits seemed to sense it as only Italian racing enthusiasts can. Various people were putting in lap times in the 1 min. 35 sec. bracket, which was of little interest with pole position standing to René Arnoux’s Ferrari in 1 min. 33.419 sec. from the previous afternoon. Then Arnoux left the pit lane and the crowds buzzed with anticipation, and burst into cheering as the loud-speaker announced a time of 1 min. 33.007 sec. on his first flying lap, a new pole-position time. His next was 1 min. 33.102 sec. and then he returned to the pits. Ferrari had played their first card. Piquet then went out and did 1 min. 33.988 sec. as if to give notice that the BMW powered Brabham was not to be overlooked, and Patrese followed with 1 min. 33.799 sec. as another warning.
Tambay took his Ferrari round for two comparatively quiet laps in the 1 min. 34 sec. bracket and then flashed round in 1 min. 32.603 sec., a new pole-position time and Ferrari first and second. The excitement among the public who were being kept well informed by the loud-speakers was visibly growing. Piquet went out again as Tambay was on his slowing down lap and then there was pandemonium around the pit area for Tambay’s Ferrari was seen heading up the pit lane with smoke pouring from the right-hand exhaust pipe, indicative of a melted piston at the least. To add to this disaster Piquet put in a lap in 1 min. 32.784 sec. and he had split the Ferraris, the Munich men were all smiles. Cheever had played the first card for Renault with a good lap in 1 min. 33.450 sec., but it was not good enough, and Prost had yet to make his first run. Patrese now recorded 1 min. 32.969 sec. to back up the Brabham team leader and the order was now Ferrari, BMW, BMW, Ferrari with pole-position time standing at 1 min. 32.603 sec. to Tambay.
Renault now wheeled Prost out on his first set of tyres and he did a lap in 1 min. 32.401 sec. to put himself on pole, and the battle was now well and truly on. Piquet went out on his second set of tyres and snatched pole-position from Prost with a lap in 1 min. 32.148 sec. and followed it with a second lap at a searing 1 min. 31.964 sec.; BMW on pole position from Renault, with Ferrari third, the noise was getting louder. All this time Arnoux was sitting in his Ferrari in the shade of the pit garage, while next door the spare Ferrari was being made ready for Tambay as he still had a set of tyres to use. Arnoux was wheeled out on his second set of tyres and the crowds erupted, everything hung on the little Frenchman, the whole honour of Italian motor racing was at stake. Away went number 28 with Ferrari flags and banners waving all round the circuit and shouts and screams and applause, Arnoux wouldn’t let them down.
Suddenly there was a deathly hush. Instead of accelerating past the pits and grandstands at over 150 m.p.h. the Ferrari was nosing into the pit lane. There was no consternation, just a complete silence, the silence of utter disbelief. Engineer Tomaini plugged his intercom connection into Arnoux’s helmet, mechanics poured water over the tyres to lower their temperature, a few more litres of petrol were put in the tank, some minor adjustments made to the mixture controls and then the engine was started and Arnoux set off again and the crowd breathed again, very noisily. Next time all was well and the Ferrari went by on full song, the speed-trap timing indicating all but 152 m.p.h. as he gathered speed round the long left-hand bend after the pits. Arnoux didn’t need any encouragement, but he got it nevertheless and as he flashed by the pits again the Longines timing equipment recorded 1 min. 31.238 sec. (over 123.5 m.p.h. average speed). All hell broke loose and if you weren’t waving and cheering you were liable to be crushed by those who were. But it wasn’t over, Prost still had another set of tyres, as did Tambay, and while the crowds were still waving and cheering for little René Arnoux, the phlegmatic Prost improved on his own time with 1 min. 32.138 sec. to take third place and then Tambay was away in the spare Ferrari, and once more the crowds demonstrated their enthusiasm for Ferrari.
It was the car that mattered, not the driver, two Ferraris on the front of the grid was what they all wanted to see, regardless of who was driving them. Arnoux had gone out on the one-lap duration Goodyear tyres, in a do-or-die attempt, and he had do-ed, Tambay was more cautious and had opted for normal Goodyear qualifying tyres which gave him a possible two attempts. He recorded 1 min. 31.967 sec., only three-hundredths away from the BMW time, but it was his final shot and he had to be content with third place. Brabham and BMW had split the Ferraris and though Maranello were on pole-position they had been really pushed by the might of Munich and Billancourt. Try as they might Alfa Romeo never got a look in and the “customer” cars of BMW and Renault, in the shape of Lotus and ATS, were right up behind this homeric battle of the giants.
Teams like Williams, Tyrrell, McLaren and Toleman could only watch with their mouths open in awe, while the little amateur teams felt like weeping and going quietly away. The 1983 season has only just began and the works teams were going hard at each other like we haven’t seen for a long time. In the shadows were men from Porsche and Honda who watched it all with very serious expressions on their faces!
If the organisers had said “That’s it, it is all over we’ve cancelled the Sunday activities”, no-one would have complained, no-one would have gone away feeling they had been cheated. Everyone had had their money’s worth, but the organisers didn’t say that and through the night cars poured into the area from all directions and a crowd of 110,000 was estimated to be assembled around the 5 kilometre circuit. After a drive round in the early morning with Derek Ongaro, the FISA track inspector, I would not argue with the estimate, and there were some superb spectator vantage points on the sides of the hills through which the circuit runs. The morning had started with clear blue skies, but before the warm-up half-hour began some ominous clouds had appeared, but the rain kept away and the cool atmosphere was absolutely ideal for racing.
There is little doubt that Ferrari use special tweaked-up engines for practice and qualifying and they often blow apart, whereas their race engines are models of reliability, and there was an air of confidence about the team. BMW knew they had got the red cars on the run and Piquet and Patrese were completely confident in Gordon Murray’s sleek Brabhams, the Brazilian out to win yet again on this circuit that he likes and the Italian out to win on his home ground even though he would be labelled a traitor if he did so. The Renault team had had so few problems in practice, apart from not being fast enough, that they were not over-confident for the race. Alfa Romeo were thrown into a panic during the warm-up when de Cesaris had the throttle pedal stick down and skated off the road on the uphill Acqua-Minerale corner and rolled the car upside down onto the wall of old tyres.
This was the spare car, and it was only damaged superficially so it was dusted down and repaired in time for the race. The ATS team had intended to race their new car but the fuel tank sprung a leak so they were kept hard at work fettling-up the old car for Winkelhock. The Toleman team were still in trouble for Warwick’s twin-plug engine was still having electrical trouble due to a fault somewhere in the chassis installation, so he was going to have to race the spare car. On the previous afternoon this car had broken its differential output shaft after one flying lap so Giacomelli did not get a drive, but even so he had qualified comfortably with his Friday time. The new Osella-Alfa Romeo V12 was too new to even qualify, but Fabi Junior had qualified the Cosworth DFV powered car. Piquet felt his BMW go off-song and the Brabham was snatched away to have a new engine installed, while he went out in the spare car and before the end of the half-hour Prost’s Renault died on him with the injection pump seized up, but a new one was soon fitted when the car was towed back to the pits. With the first five rows of the grid occupied by turbocharged 1½-litre engined cars, two Ferrari, two Brabhams, two Renaults, two Alfa Romeos, and one each from Lotus and ATS, the Cosworth brigade were wondering why they were there. With 120-degree V6 from Ferrari, 4-cylinder from BMW, 90-degree V6 from Renault and 90-degree V8 from Alfa Romeo there was more than enough technical interest for most people, and by mid-season they should be joined by 80-degree V6 engines from Porsche and Honda.
There were small Formula car races and saloon car races to keep the enormous crowd amused, but in reality they were happy enough with their wine and picnics in the pleasant countryside, waiting with anticipation for the sort of race that Saturday’s qualifying had suggested. They were not to be disappointed. At 2 p.m. the pit lane was opened and you did not have to look to know that a Ferrari had accelerated away, the noise from the crowd told you that, nor did you have to look to see that it was Rosberg on his way with the Williams, the whistles and cat-calls told you that. Italy hasn’t forgiven him for punting Tambay’s Ferrari out of the lead of the Long Beach race. Afraid that somebody might have an unfair advantage everyone who was in with a chance, and some that weren’t, were planning pit stops for petrol and tyres, Ferrari, Brabham, Williams, Renault, Lotus, Alfa Romeo and Ligier all being geared up for stops, starting the race on soft sticky tyres and with only 25-27 gallons in the tank instead of the maximum permitted 55 gallons. In consequence of this the pit lane was kept commendably clear of unnecessary people, including some sponsorship people who seem to think they own Formula One!
After the clouds of midday the sun had returned, but not with unbearable heat so all was set for a good race, but not for everyone. As the cars completed their warm-up lap and assembled on the grid a plume of smoke was seen heading for the pit-lane and under it was the Lotus 93T/1 of Elio de Angelis, the Renault engine had devoured a turbocharger before the race had started, as it had done in Brazil. The Lotus mechanics hurriedly wheeled the spare car 93T/2 onto the grid and a dejected de Angelis transferred himself to it. As it was not fitted with a large quick-action petrol filler the idea of a rapid pit-stop had to be abandoned on the spot. Away they all went on their parade lap, following Arnoux’s red Ferrari, while the crowds cheered and waved. While the two Ferrari drivers knew who was being cheered some of the other drivers must have been thinking that they would put a stop to the cheering if they possibly could. One of these was Nelson Piquet, in second position on the grid. All twenty-six cars arrived back in formation and lined up in staggered pairs, the Alfa Romro GTV fire cars and the doctor’s 400i Ferrari were in place at the back of the grid. The red lights came on, then the green and with a roar twenty-five cars shot forward, the twenty-sixth stalled. It was Nelson Piquet’s Brabham-BMW on the front row on the right and as he crouched down in the cockpit waiting for a repeat of the ghastly accident at Montreal last year, everyone miraculously avoided the stationary car, and each other. After everyone had gone the start-line marshals push-started the Brabham and with the BMW engine giving the rev-limiter a hard time Piquet took off in a cloud of smoke from spinning rear wheels.
It was “joy day” for Italy all round the first lap with Arnoux leading from Tambay, Ferrari first and second, and again on the next lap, with Patrese, ProSt and de Cesaris following. Cries of derision greeted the sight of Cheever’s Renault heading slowly into the pits with smoke pouring from one of the exhaust pipes. A turbocharger had destroyed itself and Cheever was out on only his second lap. Cecotto had also stopped on the second lap to have his visor cleaned as he had collected a lot of oil from Cheever’s ailing Renault and that done he rejoined the race. There was every chance that we were in for a goodly bout of “tigering” from Piquet as he made up for his muffed start, but it was not to be for he had taken the fine edge off his engine as he over-revved once he got going, possibly damaging a valve seat or valve tip, but whatever it was he could barely match the pace of the leaders let alone make up any ground on them.
On lap three the crowd became a bit subdued for Patrese had overtaken Tambay’s Ferrari, and on lap six there was a stony silence round the circuit for the Brabham-BMW driver overtook Arnoux’s Ferrari and was leading the race! You would expect the Italians to cheer an Italian driver in the lead of a race in Italy, but to the 100,000 and more at Imola Patrese was a traitor, driving a foreign car and actually leading the Ferraris. In Italy drivers are relatively unimportant, it is the cars that count, and the red ones in particular. Almost unnoticed Guerrero and Sullivan had had a coming-together, leaving the Colombian driver’s Theodore flanged along the guard rail and the American’s Tyrrell still in the race. Alboreto came to rest in the hills in the other Tyrrell with a broken gearbox and a lap later Lauda joined him with the front of his McLaren smashed up, having made a mistake at the chicane on the highest point of the circuit, and on the same lap Cecotto slid off the track into retirement. The race had barely started and five cars were out.
There wasn’t much enthusiasm for watching Patrese lead the race and no doubt there were many spectators “putting the evil-eye” on him as he went by in a safe and secure lead. Arnoux was keeping the blue and white Brabham in sight, but he was not menacing it, and Tambay was dropping back a little but was firmly ahead of Prost. Then came de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo) all on his own and already a long way back came World Champion Rosberg in his Williams, driving his heart out as always, passing Baldi’s turbocharged Alfa Romeo and Winkelhock’s turbocharged BMW-powered ATS that was proving to be a bit of a handful, having been hastily built up during the lunch hour. There did not seem to be any solution to this unsatisfactory state of affairs, but as all the front runners were planning to stop for more petrol and new tyres all was not lost for the huge crowd.
Arnoux was the first to stop, at the end of lap 20 or exactly one third distance and he was away in 16 sec., but it had dropped him down to fifth place and given Patrese an even bigger lead. Piquet in the other dart-shaped Brabham-BMW was still working his way through the field, but not at an exciting rate and was now in eighth place, behind de Angelis in the Lotus-Renault. While Arnoux was regaining his pace Giacomelli retired his Toleman when a badly fitted bolt in the left rear suspension sheared and about the same time Corrado Fabi spun off the road and out of the race.
All round the circuit the corners were becoming covered with rubber chips off the tyres, mixed with road surface chippings in places, and any inattention on the part of a driver, or misjudgement, could put a car onto these “marbles” and then all would be lost. In the time towards half distance not very much happened at the front of the field and Patrese held an untroubled lead from Tambay, Prost, de Cesaris, Arnoux, Rosberg, Piquet, de Angelis, Baldi, Laffite, Watson and Mansell, all spread out with the only excitement being a little scrap between Watson and Mansell before they were lapped by the leader. At the end of lap 27 Prost peeled off into the pit lane, followed by de Cesaris, and the Renault team got their man back in the race in 16.4 sec. but the Alfa Romeo team took much longer as their driver overshot his pit and had to reverse back. These stops naturally let Arnoux by up into third place but Prost rejoined before Rosberg appeared, so the order now was Patrese, Tambay, Arnoux, Prost, Rosberg, de Cesaris, Piquet, de Angelis, Baldi, and Laffite, the rest now being a lap behind. On lap 30 Rosberg was in and out of the pits with more petrol and new tyres in 14.1 sec., but even so Piquet and de Cesaris went by while he was stationary and on lap 32 Tambay was into the pits. Petrol went in, the four wheels were changed and he was away in 15 sec. without losing his second place.
On lap 34 it was Patrese’s turn to stop and he misjudged his braking and overshot by about three feet which was not serious enough to justify reversing but it meant that the 11 mechanics who were poised and ready for action had to move their positions. It still wasn’t serious, but then one of the air-lines to the pneumatic wheel hammers was stretched and pulled off its connection and though the Brabham mechanics recovered the situation very quickly 23.30 sec. had elapsed before the car was away. This had let Tarnbay go by into the lead and joy broke out again all round the circuit. All eyes were on Brabham number six to see if it was gaining on Ferrari number 27, and almost unnoticed Piquet made his scheduled pit stop in an incredible 11.2 sec. but even so it let de Cesaris by into fifth place. Laffite had made his stop in 14.0 sec. and now the second half of the race was being run.
While all the excitement of the pit stops had been taking place Warwick had got off line at the Ravazza corners at the bottom of the hill on the back of the circuit and had skated off into the tyre barriers, and ten laps later Sullivan did the same thing and his Tyrrell destroyed the back end of the crashed Toleman. Jarier had retired his Ligier with an overheated Cosworth engine when a stone punctured a radiator and let all the water out and de Angelis withdrew after a stop to try another set of Pirellis. On lap 42 a sad Piquet came slowly into the pits his BMW engine broken and de Cesaris went out when his Alfa Romeo V8 expired. At the front of the race Patrese was giving it all he knew and was catching the leading Ferrari slowly but surely, and though Tambay responded he could not match the Brabham lap times for his engine was beginning to misfire on left-hand bends as if there was a fuel pick-up problem being aggravated by centrifugal force in one direction only. Although everyone was urging him on the Brabham was closing relentlessly and for three laps they were nose to tail. Then the Brabham was alongside as they disappeared round the very fast left-hand curve after the pits to start lap 55 and with the Ferrari engine misfiring at peak r.p.m. Tambay had to resign himself to watching the BMW M-Power car go by into the lead. Another stony silence fell over the entire circuit. Round the Tosa hairpin the Ferrari lost ground; it was all over and Tambay resigned himself to second place for team-mate Arnoux was a distant third, never having got back into his stride after his pit stop, and Prost was an even more distant fourth struggling along with an engine that had lost its sharp edge and a gearbox that was reluctant to engage fourth gear. Everyone else had been lapped by the leaders, even World Champion Rosberg who was still driving his heart out in the uncompetitive Williams-Cosworth DFV.
Suddenly a cheer went up that Enzo Ferrari must have heard in Maranello. Patrese had crashed, unhurt but the Brabham was a smoking wreck against the tyre barrier on the outside of the Acqua Minerale corner. Only three corners after taking the lead Patrese had gone a fraction too fast through the chicane at the bottom of the hill, the tail had flicked right, he caught it but it had then flicked left, he caught it again but this put him off line for the uphill right-hander of Aqua Minerale and he got on the marbles and under-steered off into the tyre wall and it was all over.
Afterwards a very calm Patrick Tambay said “he got over excited”. While marshals were running to the crashed Brabham and yellow flags were waving Arnoux arrived, got off line and spun off onto the grass. He kept the Ferrari engine running, rolled down the hill on the grass and rejoined the race, but not before Prost had gone by into his third place and Tambay had re-appeared to put him a lap behind.
While the crowd waved and cheered and feted Patrick Tambay all round the circuit on his last five laps there was a lot of drama behind him. The four-tier rear aerofoil on the Lotus 92 of Nigel Mansell suddenly broke off and sent the car into a series of spins on the fastest part of the circuit and he was lucky to escape unhurt when it crashed into the barriers. Mauro Baldi’s Alfa Romeo engine blew up and Winkelhock’s BMW engine expired just as he started his fifty-eighth lap. An expectant crowd waited at the pits and start line area for the arrival of the winner but he never appeared! Arnoux arrived, Prnst arrived, Rosberg arrived and the tail-enders trickled in but no number 27! The Ferrari had died half-way round on the slowing down lap, apparently out of petrol and eventually Tambay was brought round in one of the Alfa Romeo course cars and took his place on the winner’s rostrum with Prost and Arnoux and the rejoicing began.
It took hours to get away from the circuit, the traffic jams were unbelievable, but nobody worried. It had been a great day, in fact a great week-end — in truth a great Grand Prix, and there could be more like it later in the season. — D.S.J.