The 1982 US (West) Grand Prix – Lauda’s first win after his ‘retirement’
The red light shone, then the green, and away they went, the young de Cesaris making a beautiful getaway to lead into the first corner. Unable to beat the Alfa on acceleration Lauda held station, but the cheeky Arnoux nipped by into second place, so Lauda was followed by Villeneuve, Giacomelli and Prost.
On lap six the whole situation changed dramatically, for as Arnoux, Lauda and Giacomelli accelerated up to the hairpin to take them onto the fast downhill rush of Shoreline Drive, the little Italian was all set to have a go at the McLaren and snatch third place. As they braked for the hairpin Lauda fumbled a gear-change and rather than risk having an Alfa stuffed up his gearbox he moved over to the right, whereupon Giacomelli charged by on the left and promptly punted Arnoux’s Renault up the rear and both cars were eliminated on the spot. Lauda smiled quietly to himself as he took the hairpin, now second to de Cesaris.
At 13 laps Lauda obviously thought it was time he took the lead and he closed right up on the leading Alfa without any effort at all. On lap 15 de Cesaris came up to lap Boesel’s March at the chicane and as he hesitated Lauda shot by both of them and into the lead. It was all over. No one could match the speed and precision of the Austrian ex-World Champion and de Cesaris had had his moment of glory. The famous and not-so-famous were still bouncing off the walls, but Lauda was not putting a wheel wrong and coasted away into the middle distance.
Lauda cruised home to a splendid victory, a comfortable 14 seconds ahead of Rosberg in second place. Clearly Lauda has lost none of his precision and track craft in his two-year ‘retirement’, and Ron Dennis and John Barnard of the Malboro McLaren team were smiling like Cheshire cats after the race.