Renault really win
Zandvoort, August 30th
It takes me a good ten minutes to walk from the pits of the Zandvoort circuit to the Press grandstand from which I watch the race. That in itself is no great problem, the tiresome bit is that after battling with the crowds, dragging my feet through the deep sand of a car park, climbing the dark staircase up the back of the main grandstand where it smells as though cats have been urinating, I sit down right opposite the Williams pit where ten minutes before I was chatting to Patrick Head! Most circuits have tunnels for crossing the track, while Brands Hatch and Silverstone allow you to walk across the track before racing begins, but not at Zandvoort, the wire mesh fences are impenetrable. However, it did allow me time to think about things, how after three hours of testing and two hours of timed qualifying we had finished up with a totally predictable starting grid, and that the two Renaults of Prost and Arnoux had lapped within two hundredths of a second of each other on the first afternoon. The two qualifying hours, one on Friday and one on Saturday, used to be very exciting, but this year they have become boring and dull because they are hamstrung by rules. On Saturday afternoon, when the whole scene should have been boiling up to a climax, the Renault team and the Talbot team were packing up and the drivers had gone off to change out of their racing overalls, the reason being that they had used up their regulation two sets of tyres that are permitted for the hour of qualifying. This is one of those rules made with the best intentions but it has misfired.
The constructors, the tyre people and the rule makers got a bit concerned last year when the consumption of tyres became out of all proportion, some of the Goodyear super-sticky ones only lasting three laps. Putting a limitation on the number of tyres used was agreed by everyone, but the actual decision has made rather a farce of the qualifying hour. After the morning testing a driver or team has to state which type of tyre they are going to use and then two sets of these are marked with the driver’s racing number and that is all he has for the qualifying hour. Before any car leaves the pit lane it has to stop at the exit while marshals check that it has the right tyres, then it is allowed to go out on the track. That in itself irritates most drivers who just want to get out there and get on with the job. Then when he returns to the pits he has to go into a marked-off box to make sure his car is 6 cm off the ground, otherwise the times recorded in that session on the track are cancelled. While out on the track he has operated his hydraulic system and lowered the car so that the edges of the side pods just touch the ground. As these edges must not be movable designers have arranged for the suspension of their cars to be virtually solid, but even so the edges get worn away and more time is spent in the pits having new rubbing strips fitted to the side pods than is spent out on the track driving. All this is blatant rule breaking but because everyone is doing it everyone accepts it. When questioned about this Monsieur Balestre, on behalf of the rule makers, said “The cars are not illegal, but they do not conform to the Formula 1 rules” – there wasn’t much answer to that!
Before starting my walk I was talking to Patrick Head about the situation and he said that no team or engineer was prepared to take a stand against this cheating, but he thought the drivers should get together and refuse to drive the cars. Otherwise, the only hope he could see for people to come to their senses was for there to be an enormous accident, obviously caused by the existing suspension set-ups. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee a major accident without someone getting hurt, so that idea was not really the answer. While talking, Colin Chapman joined us in a rather agitated state to say that Frank Williams, Bernie Ecclestone, Marco Picinini and Monsieur Balestre had just had a meeting and passed a new rule, effective from the Italian Grand Prix, that the material used for the rubbing strip on the lower edge of the side pod need no longer be of a UNIFORM solid material, which opened the door for the use of ceramic or steel inserts and other forms of wear-resistant material.
Both practice days had been fine and sunny but the first morning of testing had seen a lot of trouble, most probably indirectly due to the sandy nature of the Zandvoort circuit. It was built on sand dunes and sand blows about everywhere, while even if the surface looks clean and dry there is still a fine layer of sand on it. Warwick’s Toleman-Hart had barely started before sand got in the compressor and ruined it, though Henton’s car had a new layout with a concealed intake which could be protected by a filter. Many of the Cosworth engines had foam-like filter material over their intakes and Lotus even tried some engine covers with two air collectors, like those the Williams had appeared with at Hockenheim and are still using. Tambay’s Matra engine blew up within minutes of the Friday morning session starting and Pironi crashed his Ferrari turbo-charged car and Gabbiani crashed his Osella. The Frenchman was all right as there was a spare car to use, but the Italian had to miss the afternoon qualifying hour as Osella had no spare car with them. That afternoon saw a lot more trouble for Piquet’s Cosworth engine expired in his number one Brabham and Warwick crashed his Toleman and Salazar crashed the Ensign, the latter because the throttle stuck open, probably due to sand getting somewhere it should not have been.
Saturday had started with a rainstorm coming in off the sea, but it did not last and the rest of the day was fine and dry. On Friday it looked as though Henton was going to qualify the latest Toleman-Hart but on Saturday morning disaster overtook them and the new engine was ruined so that he had to try and maintain his place on the grid using the old spare car, but he failed. Another team with a 100% failure was the unfortunate Fittipaldi team, who returned to the fray after missing the Austrian GP and were using Pirelli tyres, through a circuitous deal involving tyre distribution in Brazil. Neither Rosberg nor Serra ever looked like making the grid, the Finn losing all hope on Saturday afternoon when he had engine trouble on his opening lap.
Settled down at the top of the grandstand you get a fine view of the starting area, the whole of the pits and quite a lot of the circuit, which is why I always watch the Dutch GP from the grandstand, whereas at other circuits I watch from the pits or out on a corner. At twenty minutes to 3 pm a klaxon sounds to announce that the pit gate is open and cars can make their way round the circuit to the assembly grid on the track, opposite the pits. When that klaxon sounds it is time to sit up and take notice, to stop ruminating and to pay attention. Arnoux goes out of the pits first and disappears out of my view as he rounds the Tarzan Hairpin. He is followed by Prost, Stohr, Piguet, Rebaque, Daly, Watson and the rest, all mixed up and in no particular order.
Before Zandvoort built their double-decker pits you could see the cars through the twisty bit behind the paddock, but now you don’t see them again until they are braking for the Hunzerug Hairpin. Of that you get a fine view, and you see them accelerate up and over the brow. If you have really beady eyesight, like good racing drivers have, you can see them way over the sand dunes as they go between the new “silly” chicane and the really slow Panorama ess-bend, all of which cuts out the heroics we used to enjoy on the back leg of the circuit. It also slows their entry onto the very long straight. From my vantage point I can see them come on to the straight and follow them all the way down past the pits into the braking area for the Tarzan Hairpin, and in that area you really do see some bravery taking place. This time they are coming slowly down the straight, preparing to take up their grid positions. These are indicated by “dolly birds” holding a placard bearing the car’s number. They are very brave to stand in the middle of the track with a racing car coming straight at them. Normally the drivers are doing about 170 m.p.h. at this point, so their idea of slow is probably 80-100 mph. With all my experience I think I’d stand there with my fingers crossed, so what must it be like for those girls who have probably never been near a racing car before? I notice most of them are hiding behind their placards and just not looking, and I don’t blame them. There were no stragglers from the pit lane this time, though Reutemann did his usual run through and out for another lap, and everyone seems to be lining up without any drama. Halfway down the left row there is a gap, which is where the McLaren MP4 of Andrea de Cesaris should have been, and Alboreto has been let out to make up the number, taking a position right at the back of the grid with the second of the new Tyrrell cars. At the end of the Saturday afternoon qualifying hour de Cesaris crashed. That in itself is nothing new, but this time he damaged the carbon-fibre chassis monocoque and Ron Dennis and Teddy Mayer decided that was the last straw. His car could not be repaired in time for the race and they were not going to let him take Watson’s spare car, so they withdrew his entry on Saturday afternoon before the regulation 5 pm and Alboreto was substituted as he was first non-qualifier.
It seems strange that a space should be left on the grid, rather than move everyone up one, but presumably the rule makers have good reason, though it is good for Rebaque as he now has a clear space in front of him, providing no-one else decides to nip into it when the green light comes on. Looking at the layout from above Piquet looks nicely placed to nip between the Renaults if they do not get off smartly, while Jones will obviously be trying to go down the inside. We shall not see Villeneuve doing one of his lightning sprints into the lead this time, he is too far down the grid. The Ferraris were hopeless in practice, not only handling badly but not being very fast down the straight. They looked so promising at the start of the season but seem to have got themselves into a muddle. Giacomelli is on the right there, with his Alfa Romeo, with a Ferrari in front of him and a Ferrari behind him, and that tempting space over on his left where de Cesaris should have been. Andretti in the other Alfa Romeo is well up the grid. behind Reutemann, and for once is fairly happy, having done most of his running in race-trim and not wasted time with “qualifying” tyres or settings on his car.
The two Lotus 87s in mid-field have dispensed with their “Williams-type” air-boxes, but the Theodore still retains its air-box as does Watson’s McLaren. The engines are starting, people are moving off the grid, starting air-bottles are dragged away, everyone is ready and Prost is signalled to lead them often the parade-lap. They look in a bit of jumble as they go round the Hunzerug, but they will sort themselves out round the back of the circuit, for they are a fairly disciplined bunch of chaps.
Looking up the long straight now all is still and quiet, then the cars start appearing and the long crocodile makes its way slowly down to the starting grid, one or two of the cars in the middle of the field are zig-zagging about to try and generate some heat in the tyres, but as they get nearer it all becomes very orderly. Twenty-four cars in staggered pairs, with seven metres between cars means that the grid stretches back a very long way. The starter is up on his rostrum and there are marshals all the way down the right hand side of the track with indicator boards. As each car stops in its position the board is withdrawn, but it seems to take a long while between Prost stopping on pole position and the last car positioning itself. There is no need to look at the lights, it is obvious that the Red had come on by the rising crescendo of noise from the twenty-four racing engines. As they came slowly down the straight it was all very quiet and ominous,now all hell is about to be let loose. Watch the cars, eyes on the Renaults to see if they get away smartly, look for Piquet darting off, and Jones. Suddenly the noise is deafening and wheels are spinning, the two Renaults have shot off their marks, Piquet is already being left behind, both Williams cars are spinning their wheels too much, the whole pack is roaring by, no wonder I am going deaf after more than thirty years of this, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Oh help! there is a red car spinning in the middle of the pack, it’s off the ground, it must cause a multiple pile up. The traffic jam going into that first corner is just incredible, but they’ve all disappeared round the corner, all except numbe 27 over there on the left, in the run-off sand. That’s Villeneuve and he’s climbing out safely but how he managed to spin right through that sea of cars and not take half a dozen with him is unbelievable. Round the Hunzerug go the two Renaults, followed by Jones, Piquet, Laffite ant Reuteman. After the last car, Borgudd’s yellow ATS, has disappeared over the hill we wait it silence for a short time until the leaders appear out of the sun at the beginning of the straight. Nose to tail they scream past the stands, going into the braking area at 160 mph, slower than in practice for they are on full tanks and new tyres. Already Prost has a measurable lead, but Jones is pressing Arnoux. As Andretti goes by we see his front full-width aerofoil is bent sideways at about 45 degrees. He made a good start and was alongside Reutemann going into the second corner, whereupon the Williams driver promptly ran over the nose “wing” of the Alfa Romeo. Andretti was not amused.
Twenty-one cars went by with Villeneuve out before the first corner, that makes twenty-two but we are still two short. The pit road klaxon announces the arrival of Pironi and a little while later Tambay limps into the pits as well. The Ferrari has a broken front suspension and the Talbot has a broken rear suspension, which speaks for itself, they had a shunt in the first corner melee. This must be Ferrari’s shortest race, one car out within yards of the start, and the other one in the pits after one lap, just think of all those Ferrari fans among the spectators who came a long way and paid a lot of money to cheer the Ferrari team on. It’s only slightly better that those supporters of Fittipaldi or Toleman whose cars do not even get on the grid.
They are appearing out of the sun again, to enter lap 2 and Prost is still leading, but Arnoux has Jones alongside him, with Piquet and Laffite right up behind them. The Renault and Williams are sitting it out under braking, but the Frenchman is not giving way. Up at the far end of the straight a black and gold car has pulled off on to the righthand side of the road. It is Mansell’s Lotus whose engine has blown up already. Next time round Jones is still alongside the Renault and this time Arnoux has to give way, for the World Champion has got his head down and doesn’t intend to let Prost get away. Everything down the field is pretty orderly, nobody being further up than you would expect them, nor further down, and at the moment everyone seems to be keeping up. Even Andretti is holding his place behind Watson in spite of his front aerodynamics operating at 45 degrees. Makes you wonder about aerodynamics and whether it is not a lot Formula One mumbo-jumbo. Remember Jones at Long Beach where he drove a brilliant race with his front nose-fins collapsed. He could not see them from the cockpit and was racing hard, there being no time for finesse. Said afterwards, “if that had happened in practice I’d have come in and played hell, as it was I was much too busy to worry about aerodynamic niceties”. I like Joneseyboy, good honest worker.
We’ve had five laps now, and Prost has a five second lead, if that “honest worker” is going to do anything about it he had better hurry up. He certainly looks as though he is trying hard. I can tell by the way his head sinks into his shoulders and he seems to crouch forward. A bit like Laffite he seems to sink down in the cockpit when he is really having a go, so that you can barely see him. Poor Reutemann is so big that the cockpit is a tight fit and he can do nothing but just sit there. His stance never varies not that you can never tell how hard he is driving; it is this that gives him that strange ruthless appearance.
There is a black car into the pit lane now, it’s Daly with the Guinness sponsored March. That team seems to be making a habit of early-race pit stops, this time it is terminal, the suspension has broken. We are not doing too well with five retirements already, though the remaining nineteen are going well, Pironi had some new suspension parts fitted to his Ferrari and went out again, but the car was too bent to make it worthwhile going on. Opposite, in the Williams pit there seem to be very few team members on the pit wall, there is usually quite a crowd. No sign of Patrick Head, he has probably wandered out the back to have a look at the cars entering the Hunzerug Hairpin. but where is Frank Williams? Early this morning a Japanese colleague said that a friend of his at Amsterdam airport had told him they had a booking for Frank to fly to Japan! He did not say when, but it is pretty obvious that Frank Williams is not at the race. What’s the betting he’s gone for talks with Honda about next year’s turbo-charged V6 engine.
For once Renault hedged their bets and started their two cars on different Michelin tyres, Prost on soft ones that may or may not last the race, and Arnoux on hard ones that definitely will last, but do not hold the road so well. It is now obvious that Arnoux is having a bad time on his hard rubber, for first Jones has overtaken him, now Piquet has gone by and on the seventh lap Laffite went by and Reutemann is about to do the same thing. Now that Andretti’s temper has cooled off he’s beginning to realise that perhaps his Alfa is not handling as well as it might, so he comes into the pits for a new nose-piece and front aerofoil, except that the bent one is taking a long time to remove.
Unbelievable! There is a photographer running across the track. Doesn’t anyone remember the accident that killed Torn Pryce? After that first corner incident with Villeneuve, at least a dozen journalists ran across the track. Instead of messing about with marked tyres and ground clearance FISA should pay more attention to some of the other rules in the infamous Concorde Agreement. It says clearly that no-one must cross the track, but people still do so and nothing is done about it. Drivers are particularly undisciplined in this.
Jonesey has been chiselling away at the Renault Iead and is now beginning to show visible signs of success. You only have to see where the Williams is as the Renault disappears round the Tarzan Hairpin, or how long after the Renault has disappeared over the hill after Hunzerug before Jones appears from behind the pits buildings. It is now Wattie’s turn to overtake Arnoux, he’s been there for four laps now, but then Watson always was cautious. He is sitting it out with the Frenchman into the braking zone this lap; that’s brave, and he’s holding on to the outside line, going up the camber. They’ve disappeared out of sight side by side. Eyes on the braking area for Hunzerug where they will appear again. Good old Wattie! He’s made it and is away over the brow now in sixth place. Must be awfully frustrating for Arnoux, but team orders are team orders, and he obviously accepts them because he’s signed to drive for Renault again next year. Prost has also re-signed and the way he is leading you can’t blame him. Andretti is back in the race with a new nose-cone and front aerofoil, but he is three laps behind and all he can hope to do is to finish.
Lap 14 and Reutemann is still close behind Laffite, but the way the Frenchman takes the Tarzan Hairpin on a tight inside line means that Reutemann will have to look for somewhere else if he thinks he can get by. Oh my! Brave little Hector Rebaque; he’s just gone into the braking area at the end of the straight in between de Angelis and Patrese after following them for a few laps. All three wheel-to-wheel into the corner, they’ll fall over each other if they don’t watch out. Those two Italians are not the best of friends and they’ll have no mercy on the little Mexican, but he does not seem worried about sitting between them. Now he is right behind de Angelis, and now he has passed him, just like that, and Patrese has disappeared. He has gone into the pits with suspension failure, a legacy of that bumping and boring at the start when Villeneuve got “flicked” out of the pack. Rebaque is a funny chap. He never seems to get with it in practice, so that his starting grid positions are always low, though he always qualifies, but once the race starts he drives like a demon. He seems to enjoy passing other drivers, but if he would go better in practice he would be up among the first half dozen finishers every time.
Jones has the Renault in his sights now. but I bet he is remembering Hockenheimring where Prost sat with him wheel-to-wheel and won the battle. Look to the right, up the long straight. two cars side-by-side, knocking on 160-170 mph, it’s Prost and Jones with the Williams on the outside. Into that long 180-degree banked turn and Jones is trying to run round the outside of the Renault. He’ll never do it, and Prost won’t ease up. He may be a bit dull and unexciting to talk to but he’s a hard nut. As I thought, Jones didn’t make it, he is having to follow the Renault up over the hill. So busy watching that I missed the goof of the day. My colleague alongside me did not, however, and said Reutemann must have had brain fade. He tried to dive down the inside of Laffite’s Talbot-Matra and hit the French car as it took its usual line across the apex of the corner. He’s only been following the Talbot-Matra for sixteen laps, you would have thought he knew the line that Laffite took every lap. The Talbot was T-boned off into the sand and catch-fences and the Williams limped to a stop round the back of the paddock, its left front suspension ripped apart. I bet Laffite is shouting and yelling a bit, because he can get very worked up over stupid things like that. Pity I missed that, but the Jones/Prost battle is really more important. I bet Jones is muttering about “little frog” and he is not going to give up. Seems to be taking a bit of breather this lap, not quite so close. Those tail enders are a bit too close for comfort. Salazar in the Ensign, Alboreto in the new Tyrrell and Borgudd in the ATS, I hope they know what they are doing because I’m not sure they have enough experience to be running that close at that speed.
We are up to lap 21 now and Jones is up with the Renault again, getting ready to give it another run through. Giacomelli has disappeared out on the circuit, and now Arnoux has gone; wonder what happened to them. Oh great! Jones is leading the Renault by a few feet, must have got by coming out onto the straight, but Prost is diving for the inside of the Tarzan corner. The Williams has led in . . but the Renault has led out. That was a short-lived lead for the World Champion, that Frenchman must be playing cat-and-mouse with him to get the lead back that easily. Mind you, getting the lead back is one thing, getting rid of that Williams is another thing altogether. They are beginning to lap the mid-field runners now so they are both obviously being careful. We’ve got 30 laps coming up and stale-mate has set in, I think Jones has shot his bolt probably those rear Goodyears wearing thin. Neil Oatley said they were taking a gamble on tyre wear, and if you never gamble you never win. Almost forgotten that Piquet is running a very consistent third all this time, looking very comfortable and relaxed, though he is a long way back and Watson is even further back, in fourth place. The little Mexican is fifth and de Angelis is sixth and that is all there are on the same lap. Surer is next, followed by Cheever, Alboreto, Salazar, Stohr and Borgudd with poor old Andretti last, flogging away all on his own with absolutely nothing in view at the end of it. Must be soul-destroying to keep going round and round knowing you are not getting anywhere. It would be different if he was a new-boy learning to drive fast, at least he would be getting some miles in and gaining experience, but Andretti is not short on those two commodities. Jarier went into the pits a little while ago and hasn’t re-appeared, whatever the trouble was it was terminal. Jones is dropping back visibly now and as the Cosworth still sounds strong it must be the rear tyres wearing thin. If it were the front ones he would be in awful trouble round the Hunzerug Hairpin, but there it doesn’t look too bad.
Half distance is coming up, that’s 36 laps, and everything has settled down. In fact, it has all become rather dull, with the first six cars all widening the gaps between themselves. Time to reflect. That melee as the field went down to the first corner was interesting, for at one point Villeneuve’s Ferrari was right over on this side of the track. He had taken off into the gap made by de Cesaris’ absence, but had been forced to run even further left because Giacomelli was also heading for that space. Ahead of them Pironi was having to jink left round Patrese, for the Arrows had not made a lightning getaway. As there was no may Villeneuve was going to get by Giacomelli on the outside he dodged back to the middle of the track, to go between Giacomelli and Patrese, just as Giacomelli moved back to the middle as well. The Ferrari was squeezed between the Alfa and the Arrows and sort of ejected upwards and spinning. It is still miraculous that it spun across to the left of the track without hitting anyone.
The “grapevine” tells us that Arnoux spun off into the sand and could not get re-started, when those hard Michelins caught him out as the circuit got more slippery. Jarier’s trouble on the Osella was the gearbox pinion bearing failing and Giacomelli flew off the track without too much damage. There are only thirteen cars left running now and it looks like a matter of everyone merely trying to survive through to the finish of the 72 laps. The leading Renault is lapping very consistently and confidently, but then it was doing that at Silverstone and look what happened. The Renault team really must win this one or the new French President will be “asking questions”. Unlike Ferrari, where Mr. Ferrari asks the questions, or the Williams team where Frank asks the questions, we never see or hear of the man at the top of the Regie Renault, though we do know that Francois Guiter of ELF is not averse to “asking questions” and he has been known to receive phone calls from very high up in the French Government asking what is going on. ELF are state-owned like Renault and have as big an involvement in motor racing as Renault have.
It is now just a matter of ticking off the laps, and Prost has lapped de Angelis and soon will lap Rebaque and then we’ll only have Jones, Piquet and Watson on the same lap as the leader. That’s interesting, Salazar is beginning to put pressure on Cheever in the odd-looking white Tyrrell 011. Odd-looking because in profile it has a prominent curved nose, a bit like “Chopper” Tyrrell himself. They say people get to look like their dogs. . .! There is a big dust cloud rising over the sand dunes, someone must have spun off. Count the cars, check the numbers. . it is number 3 that is missing. That is Cheever in the Tyrrell and the report says the suspension collapsed, which put him off into the sand. We seem to have had a lot of breakages today. Interesting what Patrick Head was saying before the start.
It all seemed settled just now but I’m sure I missed Watson on that lap. Must wake up and pay attention. Yes, he has gone and the report has come through that the McLaren just stopped with an electrical short-circuit. Poor old Wattie, and he was cruising round a comfortable fourth. There are now only three cars on the same lap and only eleven left all told. Not very exciting really. Either Salazar is winding the Ensign up or Surer is slowing the Theodore down (funny names these Formula One kit-teams have), but whatever it is they are close together now and the Chilean driver has overtaken the Swiss (drivers for Formula One really do come from all over the world). There are ten laps to go and Andretti has had a monumental prang. His car suffered a suspension breakage when he must have been doing nearly 150 mph and the Alfa wiped itself out along the barriers. The tough little Italo-American is OK but he’s very shaken and has a badly bruised leg. All that after flogging round and round on his own, after that long pit stop, with nothing at the end of it. He must wonder where he went wrong at times.
We now see why Surer let the Ensign go by, he is in dead trouble and is coasting into corners without using the brakes (it later transpired that the Theodore was coming apart in the middle and threatening to break in two). Eight laps to go and Jones’ certain second place is fast fading, his tyres me so thin he is having to slow right down and Piquet has seen this. That little Brazilian never misses a chance, and he is always there to take up opportunities. He just gets better all the time and more and more confident. Jones is being held up by Rebaque who is lapping Borgudd, no fault of theirs, just the luck of the draw. Now Piquet is right on the tail of the Williams and they are about to lap de Angelis, who himself is lapping Salazar. It is suddenly getting very busy down there at the end of the straight. Piquet has dived through on the inside of them all and is away in second place, poor old Jonesey there was nothing he could do about that. It’s nearly all over, Prost is cruising home and is a worthy winner this time, not like at Dijon, and he has won the Dutch GP fair and square. That young Piquet is second, adding still more to his 1981 record, and Jones is third. The rest are so far back they could be in a different race. Right at the end Alboreto failed to come round, his Tyrrell has broken its engine, but he gets classified 9th even though he has retired.
What selfish people television operatives are. That interviewer has buttonholed Prost for an interview while everyone here is waiting to garland him and acclaim him the winner. By the time he mounts the winner’s rostrum it has all gone a bit flat. He is actually smiling, you don’t see that very often, he always looks so glum. And he’s a tiny little fellow. Some of the crowd down there are like monkeys, trying to climb over the wire safety nets, but the Dutch police are looking very menacing. Don’t think anyone will try it on with them. Now what are those police doing attacking one of the Williams mechanics? Don’t see why we need police on the pit road anyway. Makes you realise how nice and peaceful Silverstone is. There is a Bobby present just in case of trouble, but he doesn’t go looking for it like these chaps seem to do. The Williams boys were only trying to pack up their equipment, the police shouldn’t have been anywhere near them. That winner’s rostrum is a bit silly, tucked away between the upper pit-storey and the timekeeper’s building, hardly anyone can see what is going on. The presentation of Formula One really is awful, and they all bang on about being “professionals” — professional muddlers if you ask me. No point in trying to hurry to leave, getting out of Zandvoort is worse than Dijon, and if you do get out of the gate you only join an enormous traffic jam that clogs Zandvoort town solid for hours on end. AH persuaded me to stay with him in Amsterdam and come in on the train. Nothing could be easier and Dutch trains are so clean you wouldn’t believe. We can walk to the station quicker than it will take most people to get out of the paddock and join the queue trying to get out of the front gate.
Not an exciting race, but a lot happening and some interesting things to learn from it, but then there is always something to learn at a Grand Prix race and some of them can be very exciting. The television cameras try to make it all look closer and more exciting than it is by using long-focus lenses and having commentators who work themselves into a frenzy when nothing at all is happening. I’ll have to correct all the mistaken impressions when I get back home and see the lads, but at least they can all watch what seems to be happening. They can’t all be lucky and be at the race, like me. DSJ.
Notes on the cars at Zandvoort
Surprisingly for this time of the season there were four new cars in the paddock, not new designs but brand new versions of existing designs. Otherwise everything was pretty static on the design front apart from detail improvements in the endless search for a good compromise between speed, road-holding, handling and balance.
Williams: Three FW07C cars with Jones in number 16, which was brand new for the German GP, Reutemann with a new car making its first appearance, number 17 and 15 as the spare car. All three were still using the engine covers with the “ears” to collect cold air from each side oi the driver’s head.
Brabham: Piquet in BT49C/14 as usual. with BT49C/9 as the spare car. The spare, or qualifying, car had the carbon-fibre brake discs. Rebaque in BT49C/12 whose monocoque had been rebuilt around the front bulkhead, following the practice accident in Austria.
McLaren: The usual three MP4 cars with Watson now using number 3 as his race car and keeping number 2 as the spare. De Cesaris as usual had number 1, and as usual he crashed it during practice. This time the carbon-fibre monocoque was damaged and it could not be repaired “out in the fields”, so he was posted a non-starter.
Lotus: The usual three Type 87 cars, with minor modifications such as the square section collector joints for the four exhaust pipes from each bank of cylinders of the Cosworth engines, and the small rear anti-roll bars mounted on top of the spring units. Air collector boxes were tried in practice, similar to those that appeared on the Lotus 88 when it was first produced, and since copied by Williams, but they were not used for the race. 87/3, which has always been an 87, for de Angelis, 87/4 for Mansell and 87/2 as the spare.
Renault: A brand new car for Prost (RE34) to the same specification as before but with slightly different construction to take the “up-and-down” suspension hydraulics as part of the design, rather than being tacked on as an afterthought. Arnoux had RE33 and RE32 was the spare car.
Talbot-Matra: A brand new car for Tambay (JS17/05), while Laffite kept with his regular car, (04) and the spare was 02. No drastic changes as everyone seems pretty happy with the cars now.
Alfa Romeo: Three cars all using the old rear suspension with the normal lower wishbone and top rocker arm and no radius rods. There were the inevitable aerodynamic changes, especially on Andretti’s car, though mostly underneath. Gerard Ducarouge joined the team as “advisor”. For what it is worth the cars were numbered 179/01, 02 and 03, though Andretti’s car was called 179D/01.
Ferrari: The same cars as used in Austria; 126CK/050B which Villeneuve crashed on the Osterreichring was not as badly damaged as it looked and was rebuilt without too much trouble. Pironi still used 051B though he did most of his Practice in the spare car which was 054 and this had been modified at the back with the alloy plate supporting the rear suspension as on the B-cars, but it did not have the modified front end. They are still having trouble with the KKK turbo-charger units, one on Pironi’s car seizing its turbo bearing during Saturday morning, which resulted in this sleeve-bearing breaking up and losing its lubricating oil out through the turbine.
Tyrrell: A second 011 car completed, this number 2 being for Alboreto who was still running on Avon tyres. Cheever had the second-generation 011/1 and was on Goodyear tyres.
March: Two cars for Daly, one of them having been totally rebuilt with a wider track and different aerodynamics underneath and this was the test-cum-spare car. This was 811/5, while 811/6 to the previous specification was the race car.
Toleman-Hart: A brand new car for Henton, number 5 to be built. A re-worked monocoque, the latest cooling system as used on Warwick’s car in Austria and the latest Hart engine. This 88 x 61.5 mm. engine has the crankcase, cylinder block and cylinder head in a single alloy casting, the split being at the crankshaft centre-line. It is loosely referred to as the “monobloc” engine. Using a higher boost than previously, and with the improved cooling system keeping temperatures much more reasonable it was showing signs of improvement until Saturday afternoon when disaster struck after only one lap. A large jubilee clip is used to hold part of the inlet trunking steady and this was not seated properly; it came loose, slipped down and cut into the toothed rubber belt which drives the twin overhead camshafts. The belt broke, the camshafts stopped revolving before the crankshaft did, and there was a nasty internal mess of pistons hitting valves. But for this, one would have taken an even bet on Henton qualifying for this race. Warwick had the same car as in Austria, and the team had the rebuilt number 1 car as a spare, but with none of the latest modifications.
Theodore: Surer was using the re-worked TY/01, which has conventional nose fins as distinct from the single-piece front aerofoil mounted high above the nose. TY/02 was the spare car.
No serious changes with Ensign, ATS, Arrows, Osella, or Fittipaldi, except that the Brazilian team were running on Pirelli tyres. — DSJ.