1984 San Marino Grand Prix

The Italian motor racing enthusiast is a simple soul. A Ferrari winning is happiness, a Ferrari losing is sadness, that is all there is to life and the whole three days of the fourth San Marino GP was total sadness, and the weather did not help. When we arrived in Milan on the Thursday the rain was pouring down and the direction signs reading Autostrada delle Sole should have been changed to Autostrada delle Pioggia. As Modena and then Bologna came into view the rain stopped pouring down, but that was all you could say, the whole area of Emilia was grey and foreboding. I was looking forward to this Grand Prix for Imola is a splendid circuit, calling for skill and bravery, it is fast, it climbs and falls, the surroundings are pleasant and the memories of last year’s race still linger. If you haven’t savoured a Ferrari victory in an Italian race you haven’t savoured Grand Prix racing and with Alboreto’s fine victory in the Belgian GP only days old the anticipation of another memorable Grand Prix of San Marino was uppermost in the minds of most enthusiasts. The anticipation of the forthcoming excitement even made the dull grey skies bearable.

On Friday morning the skies were still grey and the air was cool, but no matter there was a large crowd of spectators and four Ferraris in the pits. There were also three Renaults, three McLarens, three Williams, three Lotuses, three Tyrrells, three Alfa Romeos and all the rest, and even two Osellas, the extra one being one of last year’s Southgate designed cars with V12 Alfa Romeo engine for new boy Jo Gartner from Vienna. In other words, in spite of the previous race having been only five days before and 1,000 miles away, everyone was ready to go. When the start of the first morning of testing was delayed by 30 minutes because of the non-arrival of the medical helicopter we should have taken note of the warning. At 10.30 am activity began, and for Cheever ended almost immediately as he returned to the pits in a cloud of smoke from a wrecked turbo on his Alfa Romeo V8 engine. There was much to see around the pits, for Lauda’s McLaren was being taken apart to investigate some water-pump trouble. Warwick’s Renault was having its springs changed, Surer was trying the BMW-powered Arrows for this race and the Osella mechanics stuffed asbestos bungs up the tail-pipes of their turbocharged Alfa Romeo V8 engine when Ghinzani stopped, to suppress the frightening-looking flames that come out as the driver switches off.

With so much activity in the pits and pits garages I had overlooked the outside world, and when I did look up for a moment I was reminded of Alex Henshaw’s classic remark, used the title for a series of articles in Aeroplane Monthly about testing Spitfire aircraft in wartime. There was a “deafening silence”. Not a cheer, not a scream no flags waving, no arms waving, nothing, the stands might have been empty. Just the harsh boom of a Porsche engine, the flat drone of a Renault engine, the hard crackle of a BMW engine, the scream of a Cosworth engine and then the sight of a Ferrari passing the stands and not a movement. This was bad news. A look at the Longines-Olivetti read-out of lap times on the VDU in the Renault pit revealed all. Renault were fastest, followed by McLaren and the best that Ferrari could do was Arnoux in fourth place. Yesterday’s hero, Alboreto, was in tenth place. This didn’t call for a stiff upper lip, it was sadness time. The two Renault drivers seemed to be having it all their own way, if Tambay wasn’t fastest, then Warwick was, but Lauda was keeping them both on their toes.

Race Results


Circuit - Imola




Imola, Emilia-Romagna


Permanent road course


3.132 (Miles)


Damon Hill (Williams FW16-Renault), 1m24.335, 133.696 mph, F1, 1994