1982 South African Grand Prix
- Saturday, January 23, 1982
- Quindrink-Pointerware Grand Prix of South Africa
- F1 World Championship
At 11 a.m. the scheduled hour-and-a-half of testing got under way as drivers filtered sheepishly in through the back of the pits to join their not-very-friendly mechanics and team managers. In front of the Brabham pits were the three turbocharged BMW-powered Brabham BT50 cars and they all carried the number 2. Bernard Ecclestone was making it very clear to World Champion Piquet that he was in disfavour and that Patrese was the blue-eyed boy. Ecclestone’s reasoning was that Piquet could not be in a fit state to drive having had a poor night’s sleep on a makeshift bed, as had all the other strikers and certainly some of them looked a bit second-hand. Piquet was made to go and have a medical check-up, which said he was in good shape, but even so Ecclestone would not let him go out on the track. Patrese did all the test-driving, using the T-car and his own car, while Piquet's car sat unattended. At the other end of the spectrum was the rather tenuous sight of Morris Nunn withdrawing his Ensign car and scratching the entry for Roberto Guerreo on the grounds that his driver was not in a fit mental or physical state to tackle his first Formula 1 event after the rigours of the day-long strike and the troubled night locked-away with his fellow drivers. If the truth be known the FOCA side of the entry was in trouble with having too many cars on hand for there were 31 available for practice and the regulations only permit 30 cars to take part in qualifying for grid positions. A pre-qualifying system should have decided the odd-man-out during the Thursday morning test-session, but the drivers strike put paid to this. By withdrawing his entry Nunn solved a lot of problems, though how he could afford to be so magnanimous is difficult to see. There were also stories that Guerrero was still contracted to the Maurer Formula 2 team and that they were causing Nunn some embarrassment. No doubt FOCA looked after the team's out of pocket expenses.
After the strike Patrick Tambay felt he could live without the industrial unrest of Formula 1 and asked the Arrows team to release him which they did, as he was only a stand-in tor the injured Surer anyway. Luckily Brian Henton was on hand and took over the Arrows number 29. Everyone else was as per the entry list and the general scene was as expected, with the turbocharged Renaults, Ferraris and Brabham-BMWs being uncatchable. At the beginning of the week there had been two days of unofficial practice and all the signs were of total domination by the turbocharged cars, with a speed differential of 15 or 20 m.p.h down the hill after the pits, the faster cars actually clocking over 200 m.p.h. The faster Cosworth-powered cars could only vie for the honour of being first non-turbocharged car, while the V12 Ferrari and Alfa Romeos were totally outclassed as were the lesser Cosworth-powered teams. There was a mild flurry of excitement when Prost spun off into the catch fences when a rear tyre deflated, but damage was minimal though testing was stopped while the car was removed from its rather dodgy resting place.
With the delayed start to things and other minor hold-ups it was well after 2 p.m. before the qualifying hour commenced, drivers still being restricted to two sets of tyres each. Having lost the first day of qualifying this hour was all important as the results were going to decide the starting grid in one go. Ecclestone allowed Piquet to go out and almost immediately the little Brazilian put in a front row time. Arnoux wan up there also as were the Ferraris and Patrese, but Prost was only just with them as his engine was losing power. The morning damage to the rear suspension had soon been put right but it looked as though the engine had inhaled some and or dust as he had spun off. As expected the Williams and McLaren cars were heading the Cosworth brigade, though Lauda had not got into the swing of things to start with. Surprise was the showing of Alboreto with Tyrrell, as he was well up and ahead of the Lotus team and the Talbot team. Another praiseworthy effort was that of Salazar with the Avon-shod ATS, qualifying ahead off both Lotus drivers and the Alfa Romeo team as well as many more seasoned runners. Quite early on Lauda had made a mistake in braking at the end of the long straight and run off into the catch fencing, but had managed to back out and continue on his way. When he stopped at the pits after a few more laps it was found that a front suspension member was bent, but even so he had qualified comfortably in mid-field, but not as fast as Watson. The Ulsterman was out in the spare McLaren and towards the end of the hour when rain was falling he too got into trouble at the end of the straight and bent the rear end against the barriers. Anyone who had not got in some good laps as soon as the track was open was in trouble, for the rain started halfway through the hour and the track was never dry again. Prost had changed over to the spare Renault but the rain prevented him improving on his time and it left pole-position to Arnoux, with Piquet alongside him. The Brabham-BMWs on their first serious outing were proving mighty impressive for Patrese was just behind Piquet, with only the irrepressible Villeneuve between them. Prost was fifth fastest and Pironi sixth and it was interesting that all the front-running turbocharged cars had good drivers behind the wheels. Fastest of the Cosworth brigade was Rosberg, thoroughly enjoying himself in a good car and with a good team and he was followed by Reutemann driving in his usual relentless and unflurried manner. Derek Warwick was discovering a whole new world with 30 lb. of boost to his Hart engine and some very good “sticky” Pirelli tyres on his Toleman, and had the rain not intervened he may have been even higher up the grid than he was. With this year's new rule allowing twenty-six starters instead of the previous twenty-four, Serra (Fittpaldi) and Jarier (Osella) just scraped onto the grid, whereas Boesel had qualified comfortably at his first attempt at Formula 1. Neither of the Arrows cars qualified, Baldi just missing the cut, and Henton never really getting comfortable in the car, while Paletti (Osella) seemed a bit out of his depth and poor little Fabi never had a chance. Fabi’s Toleman-Hart was steadily losing boost pressure and by the time it was traced to a thrust bearing breaking up and letting the compressor blades wear themselves out against casing, the rain had arrived, so that he never got a full flying lap.