1981 Argentine Grand Prix
- Sunday, April 12, 1981
- Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina
- F1 World Championship
Buenos Aires, April 12th
From the start of practice for the Argentine Grand Prix, held at Aires' Municipal Autodrome within the spacious Parc Alrnirante Brown, Nelson Piquet was without question the man to beat. Driving his Brabham-Cosworth BT49C fitted with the novel hydro-pneumatic suspension system which has caused howls of "unfair" from rival teams, the enthusiastic young Brazilian was absolutely determined to make up for the silly mistake he had made two weeks before when he'd started the rain-soaked Brazilian Grand Prix on "slick" tyres, a tactical decision which turned out to be a woeful error of judgement. The Buenos Aires circuit had been resurfaced for a considerable part of its length since last year when the surface broke up quite badly in several places and this, combined with the effective way in which Gordon Murray's new suspension system has circumnavigated the "skirt ban", contributed to a pole position time which was a second and a half faster than last year! In 1980 Alan Jones was the fastest qualifier in 1 min. 44.17 sec. in his Williams FW07; this year Piquet's Brabham BT49C recorded a 1 min. 42.665 sec. lap during the first timed practice session, held in comparatively cool conditions, and he was never really challenged from that point onwards.
Piquet was not without his problems, however. On one occasion he lost his brakes as he came into one of the tight infield hairpins, the pedal going "soft" due probably to some air in the system or a slight fluid leak. The Brabham careered off onto the grass, narrowly missing a photographer, before shuddering to a halt with its driver almost trembling with fright! The main opposition to Piquet's Brabham came from the Renault and Williams teams, the French turbocharged cars running reliably throughout although not quite demonstrating the out-and-out speed which some optimists had predicted in view of the two long straights at Buenos Aires. Prost continued using chassis RE22B which had originally come to South America as the team spare and been taken over by him for the race at Rio while Arnoux was at the wheel of RE26B which had been rebuilt round a new monocoque following the startline shunt in Brazil. Prost qualified second fastest on Friday on 1 min. 42.981 sec., keeping his place on the front row despite failing to improve during the warmer weather conditions of the final session. Arnoux's best was 1 min. 43.997 sec., good enough for fifth fastest even though the uncomplaining driver felt once again that he simply couldn't "get with it" and wasn't driving at anywhere near his best.