48 – 1984 Portuguese GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

Speed vs stealth. Today Alain Prost has a reputation as the master strategist, a driver who prioritised race set-up over qualifying panache, but in 1984 he was a regular front-row qualifier while team-mate Niki Lauda relied on canny racecraft.

The Austrian led the championship by 3.5 points coming into the season finale – the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1959 – and to take the title Prost needed to win with Lauda third or lower, finish second with Lauda fifth or lower or third with Lauda outside the points. It was all going swimmingly, too.

Pole qualifier Nelson Piquet was slow away, but Prost dropped behind Keke Rosberg (Williams) and Nigel Mansell (Lotus), although it took only until lap nine for the Frenchman to work his way to the front. At that stage, Lauda was still mired in the top 10’s lower reaches and France appeared destined to crown its first world champion.

As the race wore on, though, and Prost pulled away, Lauda made steady progress, picking his way through the pack with a succession of passing manoeuvres, mostly under braking for Turn One.

By the time he’d made it up to third, on lap 33 of 70, he was half a minute behind the second-placed Mansell and the title looked more distant still. The Lotus later began leaking brake fluid, however, and on lap 51 Mansell lost time with a spin. Next time around he spun again, handing McLaren a one-two and giving Lauda the title by half a point – the tightest margin in championship history. SA

The 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix on the Database

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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