1981 Austrian Grand Prix

Everyone was going through the motions of trying to balance drag against speed to give the best lap times, and those cars that had too much drag in the form of their plastic skirts rubbing on the ground were spending a lot of time in the pits having new rubbing strips fitted. Others were re-thinking on gear ratios, for every year someone over-estimates how fast they think their cars will go. Everyone knows that the average speed is well over 140 mph, so some of them get carried away into thinking their cars are going to do over 190 mph, and then seem surprised when they find their top gear ratio far too high. Pironi returned to the pits on foot, with a detailed explanation of what had happened, but the Ferrari team did not seem impressed and when the car was brought back the front was bent and the wheels splayed out, which told their own story. The Ferrari team had brought along two revised cars (050 and 051) on which the front half of the monocoque had been redesigned and the rear end had yet another method of holding everything in place, this time by means of a single large dural plate. The spare car (054) was to the original specification with the rear end hung on a magnesium-alloy casting.

The afternoon qualifying hour started 17 minutes late, to make up for the morning delay, and while Villeneuve got on with qualifying in 050/B, Pironi had to wait for nearly half the session until his car (051/B) was repaired. In the Brabham camp Rebaque’s car (BT49C/12) was still being repaired so he went on using the spare car (BT49C/9) until it was needed by Piquet.

The Brazilian’s own car (BT49C/14) was using an engine that had done quite a mileage and it began to show signs of fatigue, so he took over the spare car but that seemed equally tired so the whole team, packed up well before the end of the timed hour, with not a very impressive result. Meanwhile the Renault team were in full swing and both drivers were way out on their own, there being a bare three-tenths of a second between them, with Arnoux (RE33) just that much ahead of Prost (RE32). In third place, with only a handful of laps, was Villeneuve in the turbo-Ferrari, his very fast lap coming just before the engine blew up! (Did we say the 126CK engine was reliable?). With his delayed start Pironi never got into the picture, but the two Williams drivers were hammering on as hard as ever, Jones using both his own car (number 16) and the spare car (number 15), while Reutemann stuck with number 14.

Race Results


Circuit - Osterreichring




Spielberg, Styria


Permanent road course


3.692 (Miles)


Nigel Mansell (Williams FW11B-Honda), 1m28.318, 150.493 mph, F1, 1987